GEORGINA BOYES The Imagined Village: Culture, Ideology And The English Folk Revival (No Masters Co-Operative Limited)


Given that the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-winning collective bagged their name from it, it might be presumed that “The Imagined Village” would be a gentle introduction into the world of English folk. It’s nothing of the sort, perhaps not unfortunately, but the first few chapters read like a dry-as-dust academic thesis that exists only to be dutifully ploughed (ha!) through by future researchers. And then suddenly, round about chapter three, “The Imagined Village” becomes  gripping, page-turning, edge-of-seat drama as it details the connivances and machinations of leading figures of the folk revival movement as they conspire to separate the songs and traditions from the very people they’re “collecting” (a convenient euphemism for stealing, in some instances) them from.  Shady figures abound, especially one Rolf Gardiner, a Nazi-sympathising landowner seeking to co-opt morris dancing traditions for his own ends. The book is also, perhaps unsurprisingly given the period it surveys, rife with sexism, the cover picture showing female folk dancers being a rare but necessary corrective.


A bit specialised for my tastes, admittedly – the index skips from Fabian Society to Fascists without stopping at Fairport Convention, for instance- I nevertheless found “The Imagined Village” to be an eventually fascinating survey of a resurgent subculture and those who would kill it with their own perceived kindness.