Monday 16 December 2013

The Wild and the Innocent

My favourite Audie Murphy western is The Wild and the Innocent (usual date 1959, the Audie Murphy web site gives 1958, directed by Jack Sher)...

Audie Murphy and Sandra Dee are the rustic innocents, who attract the interest of corrupt sheriff, Gilbert Roland (and here I have to put in the !).

There is this exchange between the sheriff and his sidekick - from memory...

Sidekick:  What do you make of them, Sheriff?

Sheriff:  Very dangerous.

Sidekick:  How so?

Sheriff:  She doesn't know how beautiful she is. 
             And he doesn't know he's in love with her.

Sunday 1 December 2013

A historical source...

I recently found that one of my first publications has become a historical source. Which is a bit spooky...

John Davis, The London Drug Scene and the Making of Drug Policy, 1965–73
Twentieth Century British History (2006) 17 (1): 26-49.

'...It is important, though, to distinguish this sort of multi-drug use, spurred primarily by the junkies’ search for heroin substitutes, from the poly-drug use characteristic of the wider London scene that was rooted in eclecticism and experimentation. ‘The typical young user’, a Medical Research Council Working Party concluded in 1970, ‘is now much more often a poly-drug abuser than someone exclusively dependent on any one drug.’60 Hard figures are, as usual, hard to find. Elizabeth Tylden’s study of cannabis users found that whereas 80% of users surveyed in 1965 had used no other drug, this was true of only 11% of users surveyed in 1970; the proportion ‘on multiple drugs’ had risen from 2 to 21%.61 Patrick O’Sullivan, working with teenage users in Camden, found that experience increased with age: those approaching twenty had experimented ‘over the years... with most of the “soft drugs”…  Through experience and contacts they had therefore built up a good deal of drug knowledge of the kind lacking in those younger groups.’62...'

And Note 62 is

62  P. O’Sullivan, ‘A Square Mile of Drug Use’, Drugs and Society 2/2, November 1972, 14.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Further on 'Tolkien in Oxford'

My thanks to people who have made encouraging noises...

I have now been told that the BBC should be able to make available for repair the digital video version of 'Tolkien in Oxford', in order to restore the missing material.  The issues have been taken on board - well done.  I will sit in on this process, informally - and I should be able to review the paperwork, and ultimately make a lot more background detail available.

Judging from the amount of interest we really should put some more formal things out into the academic research record - and I do think we have a duty to the research record.  But, early days, let us solve the problems one by one, I make no promises, work loads, life...  You all know the routine...


Wednesday 6 November 2013

Tolkien in Oxford

As, perhaps, an example of the strange, visible, inter-connected world that is developing...

I was contacted last week by Merton College, Oxford.  Next year is the 750th anniversary of the founding of the college, and as part of that they want to do something about their (current) greatest son, J. R. R. Tolkien.  And they wanted to speak to me about a project I was involved in in 1968.  Yes, I said 1968.

That was a short BBC film called 'Tolkien in Oxford'.  Leslie Megahey - later to be Head of Music and Arts BBC TV - was the director.  I have been told that somewhere I have been listed as 'writer' on the project.  Nothing so grand.  I think I was 'researcher' - in other words, the gofer.  Because I knew Tolkien's work and I knew Oxford I pulled things together as the director wanted them.  Most of the things you see on the screen I set up, the interviews, the locations, the room that stood in for 'Tolkien's study'.  You can see me in the extended Merton College sequence, as I choreograph the gaggle of 'tourists' weaving in and out of shot.

The film was made at a very specific time in the development of Tolkien's reputation.  The crew, for the most part, knew little about him.  I remember saying to the sound man, 'Look, this is exactly like interviewing Lewis Carroll.  In the future people will want to know everything he said, however trivial.  Save everything...'  But television shoots do not work like that...

Talking to Leslie Megahey and to Merton College over the weekend...  Comparing notes and memories, looking at surviving paperwork...

There is work to be done.  The film has appeared on the BBC web site - but the information given on the web site is wrong.  The actual film as displayed on the BBC web site is incomplete - notably at some points it has Tolkien talking gibberish, because explanatory captions have been lost.  For technical reasons the captions were floated in at the time of broadcast. 

We need to restore the captions and restore the end credits.  Clearly - because the film is on the BBC web site - the film has already been digitised.  So, maybe, that should not be too hard...

At the same time the film has become a sort of ur-document for Tolkien scholars and enthusiasts, but comment is a bit confused - partly because the research record is incomplete, and because very few people will have seen the film as intended, and as broadcast. 


I have never seen a cineaste study of 'Tolkien in Oxford'.  Does it exist?  I mean something about how the approach of the young auteur seen here is further developed in later Leslie Megahey works - a narrative that is visual and filmic, quite elaborate camera sequences, Leslie himself taking over the interviewing, and so on.  Also, it is an Oxford man's film about Tolkien in OXFORD - the student body (in its myriad daftness) becomes a character, Merton College itself becomes a character, and in the final helicopter sequence the whole city becomes a character.  Tolkien in Oxford.

Leslie Megahey is increasingly recognised as a very significant figure in the development of BBC documentary - see, for example, the recent British Film Institute re-release of his Schalcken the Painter...

...or his study of Orson Welles...

So, Tolkien in Oxford...  Find ways to restore the film, find ways to rescue the research record.  For a start, does anyone have the original Radio Times to hand?

Patrick O'Sullivan

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Amazon/Createspace - strange experience

I created my song lyric book through Createspace, which is now part of
Amazon.  As I explained in one of the things I wrote about this project -
'Love Death and Whiskey - the Hollywood movie'  (it is on this blog, lower down...)  - suddenly in 2010 all the elements came together.  Self-publishing
such a book became not just possible but easy.  This has worked well - 
once you accept that you have to work within Amazon's rules and methods... 
For example, the print on demand source is in the USA...

The book has worked for me, as a little basket of samples - and in other
ways.  In working out ideas, in developing new projects.  The Amazon links
have meant that the book is visible throughout the world - and can be bought
throughout the world.

I keep an eye on the reviews on Amazon...

(Recently there appeared a review by a former lover...  And we have to
wonder what would happen to sales if we wrote to every former lover saying,
You really should look at this book - you might be in it...)

And recently there appeared on Amazon 3 copies of my book at absurd prices -
one copy at 6 pence, one at 7, and one at 8.  Including postage - which is
how these book dealers make a profit - that is £2.86, £2.87, £2.88.  How was
this possible?  Where had these copies of my book come from?

I bought all 3 copies.  And - of course - it turned out that 2 were signed
copies that I had given to friends or to contacts, as gifts.  Or samples...
Judging by the printing information so was the third copy.  So, all fair
enough...  Maybe...

But...  I seem to have created a problem for myself and the world.
Somewhere within Amazon an entity - I think it must be a computer, it cannot
be a human being - has decided that there is a market for my song lyric book
at around the £3 mark.  Amazon is now selling the book for £3, including

I look at the costs - Amazon's costs and my costs.  Clearly now, for Amazon,
the cost of producing a paper copy of my book is almost negligible...  Is
their print on demand source still in the USA?  I am tempted to buy a copy,
to see what they have done - but that would confirm the entity in its belief
that the ideal price for my book is £3...

Monday 3 June 2013

Robert Story Song Project – DRAFT REPORT - June 3 2013

Robert Story Song Project – DRAFT REPORT
June 3 2013
Patrick O’Sullivan
With Stephanie Hladowski

In preparation for the Gargrave Autoharp Festival, May 31, June 1 and 2, 2013, I wrote a series of articles for the village magazine, and, in discussions with the village community, decided that we should see if we could develop something special for the festival, especially for Gargrave – an exploration of the work of Robert Story, 1795-1860, the self-taught poet and lyricist who is associated with Gargrave.  I collected much Robert Story research material on one of my web sites

In Gargrave Village Hall I set up a little exhibition, the Robert Story Story Board – so that some of the research material would be available to members of the community who, for one reason or another, might not be computer users.  I am happy to report that, at the end of the festival this exhibition material was seized by a local archivist – he plans that it become a village, community resource.

For more on the autoharp, the UK Autoharp Association, and the Gargrave Autoharp Festival see…

This is a quickly written draft report about the Robert Story Song Project, May-June 2013.  This report will be distributed to a number of interested individuals and groups, and it seems best to make it, at this stage, a standalone report.  It will necessarily repeat material available elsewhere.

Amongst the interested are music performers and singers, historians of music, musicologists, literature specialists interested in the writings of the ‘labouring classes’, and language specialists interested in the language and the writing of the ‘lower classes’.  And this report will be distributed to them.  I thank them all for helpful discussions.

One of my starting points, in discussion with John Goodridge of Nottingham Trent University and his ‘Labouring Class Writers Project’, is that these writers wrote songs.  We should not approach song lyrics as if they were simply not very good poems.  But I think that that discussion could be turned on its head – I am not sure that our culture has any more a good understanding of the uses of poetry.  Or indeed much use for poetry.  But we certainly know about song – and never before in the history of cultures has so much song been consumed and enjoyed.

Looking at the work of someone like Robert Story, we should at least pay him the courtesy of understanding what he was trying to do, and his milieu.  And there are certainly difficulties.  For example John James, Story’s friend and biographer, praises Story’s lyrics:  ‘attuned to the finest heart-strings of mankind…  but withal chastely.’  I am not surely that we would nowadays recommend a book to a friend saying:  You must read this – it is very chaste.

But, at the same time – I have said this elsewhere – tracking the work and the life of Robert Story proved to be surprisingly easy.  Practically all of his work is freely available somewhere on the web, and through my academic work I was able to track his life through the nineteenth century newspaper archives.  It all proved to be far more interesting than I had expected – especially making visible, within a small village in Yorkshire, the bitter faction fights around the coming of political reform to England in the 1830s.

In developing the Robert Story Song Project I was able to look for support to Stephanie Hladowski, Bradford based singer and music teacher.  Stephanie has an exquisite, accurate singing voice – I have heard BBC Radio 3 announcers drool about her voice.  Stephanie is a regular at Cecil Sharp House, the headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.  Her most recent project, a cd collaboration with guitarist Chris Joynes (C. Joynes), is in effect a meditation on the archives of Cecil Sharp House.

So that Stephanie brings special strengths to this repertoire and to the songs of this period.  I am indeed fortunate that Stephanie agreed to help plan the Robert Story Song Project, and agreed to perform at our festival in Gargrave.  Stephanie and I agreed that this would be an ‘Action Research’ project – learn by doing.  Can we make these songs work?

We had the usual problems that bedevil these projects, entirely dependent as they are on good will.  Two musicians we were working with had to drop out, one because of a family health crisis, the other because of unexpected work demands.  I myself had to spend much of the week before the Gargrave Autoharp Festival in Utrecht, in the Netherlands – when, in another part of my working life, a Research Network that I advise rejigged its schedule.

But what people like me have to do in these circumstances is master and distill the research material and present straightforward performance choices.  Stephanie Hladowski and I decided that we would present 3 Robert Story songs, illustrating 3 different aspects of his song repertoire and his career.

We decided on a reverse chronology.  The reasons for the reverse chronology will quickly become clear…

My William

By this late stage in Robert Story’s career his mannerisms and verbal tics had settled down and he had a well maintained lyricist’s toolbox.  He is able to directly draw on technique to capture emotion.  For example, his decision to use a six line stanza form, rhyming abcbdb, tracks the thought.  The listener at first expects a standard simple 4 line stanza, and the extra 2 lines, and that extra third rhyme, are like extra effort and thought being forced out of the grieving parent.

At the performance I quickly outlined to the audience Robert Story’s life and career, stressing the flight from Gargrave, the job in London.  ‘And in London – one by one – his children died…’  This introduces the song about his dead son, William – and I briefly mention the verse in which Robert Story wishes that his son could be buried in Gargrave, ‘that distant, rural, green churchyard’, where he played as a child.

In his song lyrics Robert Story usually gives us a good hook – ‘hook’ however defined.  The opening line of ‘My William’ is

My William died in London
In this lyric there is no hiding place.  The last stanza begins…

O London!  Fatal London!
How proud to come was I…

Stephanie Hladowski decided to set this song of a parent’s grief like one of the nineteenth century laments that she knows so well.  I was particularly struck by the way she handled those ‘extra’ two lines of the six line stanza.

She sang this song unaccompanied.  It was bleak, moving and authentic – a strange combination of appreciative adjectives, I know.  When she had finished there was a grim pause, as the audience processed its collective experience.  (And there is the reason for the reverse chronology – you should not leave your audience in that condition.)   And then, applause.

The Isles are Awake

We decided that we had to do one of Robert Story’s political songs.  Story’s political songs are, in fact, secular hymns.  He writes them like hymns – that is part of their success.  He is clearly drawing on hymn tradition.  In fact one of his songs, ‘The Church of our Fathers’ is set (by composer Robert Guylott) and presented as a hymn in the sheet music of the time, and can – I guess – be performed as a hymn.  But it is, in fact, part of a political campaign – it is a defence of the established Church of England.

Stephanie Hladowski and I felt that there was no point in beating about the bush, and that we should attack the song that, briefly, made Robert Story a national figure, which nailed his colours to the Conservative mast, and which became part of the bitter faction fights within Gargrave.  That song was ‘The Isles are Awake’.  

Again a 6 line stanza, this time rhyming aabbcc, and each stanza ending with some version of the hook line…

The Isles are awake to the voice of the King!

It is a difficult lyric – and my respect for the Conservatives of the 1830s is increased if their massed ranks managed to sing this song.  Robert Story’s splendid word for the reformers and radicals is ‘Destructives’ – the Destructives are opposed by the loyal Conservative.

Again, at the performance in Gargrave, I spoke very briefly about the political background – William IV, the monarch just before Queen Victoria, in a speech to the bishops making public his opposition to any further reform.  Story’s song gives vent to ‘the heart shout of Loyalty, fervent and true…’

Stephanie Hladowski set this difficult lyric as a campaigning hymn.  We could have done with a massed choir of fervent Conservatives, but there were just two of us.  I silenced my inner Destructive, and imagined that massed choir standing, fervently, behind me.

I think that the way to do these nineteenth century campaigning songs is, maybe, with choirs – many of the Chartist songs of the period work in the same way.  A little aside here…  If you stop looking for ‘Robert Story’ and go to the National Archives web site and look for ‘The Isles are Awake’, you will find that the text of this song has entered a number of nineteenth century family archives – as a broadside ballad, I think.  The National Archives do not know that the song is by Robert Story.

The Star of Eve

This is, maybe, not one of Story’s best lyrics – its diction references a more eighteenth century tradition.  The lyric did not make the ‘final cut’, the collection that John James published in 1861, after his friend’s death.  (Mind you, John James’ book was published in order to collect funds for Story’s widow – and he might have, delicately, abandoned this lyric about an earlier Gargrave amour.)   But the lyric is in Story’s own 1857 selection, where he tells us that it is addressed to Miss H -- of Gargrave.  And he tells us what song he had in mind as he constructed the lyric.  This is very common in the writers of this period – and this section of this brief report can be expanded infinitely…  We know it is a song when they tell us where to find the tune.

Robert Story had within him a storehouse of the tunes of the Borders and the North Country.  Here he had in mind a song by Robert Burns, ‘O Bonie was yon rosy brier’.  Stephanie took one of the tunes that has been used for that Burns text, set it in a comfortable key, with a nice chord pattern for the autoharp.  It is a very pretty tune.

We can make this lyric work, and this pretty tune.  The Star of Eve is, of course, the evening star, the planet Venus – and we are free to imagine this young couple walking out in the evening, and that bright star making a memorable evening even more memorable.  We are not free, of course, to imagine this rural excursion leading to anything unchaste.

In Gargrave we were able to seize Mike Fenton, England’s autoharp guru – and he quickly created a lovely autoharp accompaniment for the song.  And we hijacked Bob Ebdon, another singer autoharper, to join us.  It is called Action Research for a reason.  Bob found a very nice harmony line for the chorus.  So, Stephanie Hladowski’s backing singers were two large bearded men, one with a black beard, one with a silver.

And the songs of Robert Story were heard in Gargrave for the first time in 150 years…

I hope that this report has made clear my gratitude to Stephanie Hladowski, and her talent, professionalism and easy going adaptability…

Patrick O’Sullivan

©Patrick O’Sullivan 2013

Visiting Scholar, Glucksman Ireland House, New York University
Patrick O'Sullivan's Whole Life Blog
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Irish Diaspora Studies

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Robert Story Song Project

Robert Story Song Project

This article, or a version of it, will appear in the Gargrave Village Magazine at the beginning of May 2013...


For Gargrave Village Magazine

Gargrave Autoharp Festival - the Robert Story Song Project

We are now in the countdown to the Gargrave Autoharp Festival, when - weather permitting - we will fill the village with music, on the weekend of May 31, June 1 & 2, 2013.

We are in Gargrave as guests, and – like good guests – should arrive bearing a small gift. From this rose the idea of performing some of the songs of Robert Story at our music festival. The usual reference and guide books mention Robert Story and his relationship with Gargrave – but what was the nature of that relationship and was it a happy one?

Our sources for the life of Robert Story are his own Preface to his 1857 Poetical Works, and the 'Life of Robert Story' that his friend John James wrote for the 1861 Lyrical and Other Minor Poems – that book was published after Story’s death in order to gather a little money for his widow.

As far as I can see the entries on Robert Story in the original 1885-1901 Dictionary of National Biography, and in the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004 onwards, are based mostly on those two sources. Also worth looking at is Robert Story's Preface to the 1849 Third Edition of his Songs and Poems - note, the Third Edition. John James' 'Life' is a great read - he was clearly very fond of Robert Story, but he does not pull punches.

There is little academic work on Robert Story - nowadays we can check this easily by using Google Scholar. As always when using such resources, go carefully - for example there was more than one poet called 'Robert Story' active in the early nineteenth century.

I first came across our Robert Story in Brian Maidment, The poorhouse fugitives: Self-taught poets and poetry in Victorian Britain, 1987. He is listed in Martha Vicinus The Industrial Muse: A Study of Nineteenth Century British Working-Class Literature, 1974 - and in John Goodridge's current Labouring-Class Poetry Project at Nottingham Trent University. We are trying to rescue these writers from what E. P. Thompson called 'the enormous condescension of posterity' - but you can see that there are already strange problems of nomenclature and preoccupation. Poor, working class, labouring class, self-taught - but how are they different from what we think of as 'mainstream' writers and the literary 'canon'? If the research record has heretofore been marked by condescension, we can say that there are now some decent studies of these Labouring-Class Writers - though maybe often about the special cases, like John Clare or the Chartist poets

From the work of John Goodridge's Project, it is clear that practically every local community throughout England had some local eighteenth and nineteenth century version of Robert Story. Indeed Robert Story is almost an ideal type, in his use of local patronage, local politics (in his case conservative politics), his poetic ambitions, successes and failures.

What is missing from the research record is the notion of song and performance. These writers wrote songs. They performed their songs, in specific circumstances, for specific communities - local songs for local people. Or they gave their songs to performers.

Is a song lyric a poem? Again there are problems of nomenclature - when the words 'lyric' or 'lyrical' are used in many not quite over-lapping ways. The academic literature tends to regard song lyrics as simply not very good poems - when they were written for different purposes, to different rules. If Robert Story is an almost ideal type of the 'Labouring-Class Writer', then the Robert Story Song Project at the Gargrave Autoharp Festival is a case study in ways to re-connect with this practice and this heritage. And demonstrate the songs' value through quality performance. In the longer term there is an intriguing academic research project here - we have already involved the musicologists.

A surprising amount of Robert Story material is now freely available on the Web - this was certainly not true five years ago. I do not want to clutter up your village magazine with Web addresses. So I have collected all the Web links in one place, here on one of my web sites...

We will also place in the Gargrave Village Hall a small exhibition of key documents - I have given up trying to not think of this as the 'Robert Story Story Board'. So that anyone who wants to find out more about Robert Story will now have a clear route forward - perhaps you can tell us which Robert Story songs you would like to hear performed at the Gargrave Autoharp Festival...

Patrick O'Sullivan

April 2013

PS I am still writing some sections of the web site, but the Subpages
1. Robert Story - The Works and
8. Robert Story's Songs - Action Research
are pretty complete

Thursday 14 March 2013

Gargrave: Autoharp Capital of the North 2

This little article will appear in the Gargrave Village Magazine, April 2013 issue - part of the countdown to the Gargrave Autoharp Festival.

Like the article for Autoharp Notes it was rewritten at the last minute when we heard about our successful Arts Council bid.

Some might object that Mother Maybelle Carter got the idea of hugging the Autoharp from Cecil Null.  But note that I say that she is 'usually credited'...

To to show willing I have put in a picture of Cecil Null, hugging, below my text.


Gargrave:  Autoharp Capital of the North

Gargrave Autoharp Festival
Gargrave Village Hall and environs
Friday May 31, Saturday June 1, Sunday June 2, 2013

The autoharp is one of those nineteenth century ‘parlour instruments’, developed when our ancestors wanted to make music at home – when they began to have a little more leisure, and have parlours.  We can think of the mass produced piano or the violin as ‘parlour instruments’, or the reed instruments, like the concertina and the accordion.  Very often a parlour instrument would have some special feature to help the amateur musician.  On the autoharp the special feature actually works.  The autoharp is a shallow box with stretched strings, like a zither.  The autoharp has a series of chord bars.  You press a button, the chord bar comes down – and it silences the strings that you do NOT want.  You play a chord.  Then you play another chord.  And you are making music.

A fun thing nowadays is go to Google Patents, and chart the attempts to change and improve the autoharp over the century.  The autoharp travelled to the United States – where the Oscar Schmidt company became the main seller and developer.  At one point Oscar Schmidt had a contract to supply US schools – you can see that the autoharp will work, in small schools, to support children singing.  American schools keep finding autoharps in the backs of cupboards – they put them on Ebay.

In the USA the availability of the autoharp meant that it became a kind of folk instrument, particularly associated with Appalachian country music and with bluegrass.  The Carter Family used an autoharp in their line up – you can now see the original performances on Youtube.  Mother Maybelle Carter is usually credited with the decision to pick the autoharp up, from the lap or the table, and hug it, like a baby.  I think she did that to get the instrument near the microphone.  But it is certainly an easier and more fun playing position.

A really strange thing about the autoharp is that the best players who have ever lived are alive now.  And you will see and hear one of them – Mike Fenton - in Gargrave, in June.  It is only in recent decades that really skilled musicians have taken up the autoharp, understood it, and redesigned it to meet their needs.  In the USA you will find the Mount Laurel Autoharp Gathering, and the MLAG Autoharp Hall of Fame.  Mike Fenton is the English member of that Hall of Fame.  Also watch out for Nadine White, our expert on the autoharp alongside other folk instruments.  And the Kilcawley Family – brother and sister duo, Damon and Louiza.  That is Louiza on our poster.

The redesign of the autoharp continues – it is a great instrument for people who like to tinker.  There are now different flavours – autoharps that are stronger in specific keys, for example.  I usually sing in the key of G, so I have an autoharp that helps me there.  There are beautiful, hand crafted ‘luthier’ instruments – Alec Anness is the main English luthier autoharp maker.  For the moment I make do with what I find on Ebay – but one day, perhaps.

The Gargrave Autoharp Festival comes together as an alliance between UK Autoharps, a small national organisation, and Gargrave Village Hall, a vital community resource.  We have just heard that we have secured Arts Council funding for our festival.  This is the first ever autoharp event in the North of England – it is our equivalent, perhaps, of the USA’s Mount Laurel.  But in Gargrave I want us to discover the English Autoharp.

On the Saturday, June 1, there will be a day of autoharp demonstrations and classes – inexperienced would-be musicians welcome.  On the Saturday evening there will be a – heavily subsidised – family-friendly Grand Concert.  On the Sunday there will an Autoharp Service in Gargrave’s lovely church.  And throughout the weekend we will fill the village with formal and informal music sessions.  We can hope for good weather…

Patrick O’Sullivan

Telephone 01756 668218

For more on UK Autoharps see 
For more on Mike Fenton see 
For more on Alec Anness see

Thursday 7 March 2013

AHRC Research Networking Project: ‘Digitising experiences of migration: the development of interconnected letter collections’

One of the projects I have been advising is beginning to come together nicely.

One part, an Arts & Humanities Research Council funded network, is now in place.

Below is a helpful outline by Emma Moreton, University of Coventry - this is taken from the Correspondence Corpora blog...


digitising experiences of migration

An AHRC Research Networking Project: ‘Digitising experiences of migration: the development of interconnected letter collections’

Emigrant letters are expressive and indicative of correspondents’ identities, values, preoccupations and beliefs; they are a powerful source of information and understanding about migration issues, provide a colourful picture of domestic life from an emigrant perspective, and shed light on processes of language change and variation.

The sourcing and archiving of emigrant letter collections are growing, providing a rich resource for teaching and learning which transcends disciplinary and methodological boundaries. Letter collections are of great interest to academics, schools, community groups and private individuals who are interested in researching the lives and experiences of letter writers.

The Problem
Although many emigrant letter collections have now been digitised, not all are properly archived; some are reduplicated and others are in danger of being lost. The documentation and preservation of such letters is, therefore, a particularly pressing need. Additionally, emigrant correspondence projects have almost always evolved independently of one another, and although project teams have been successful in tackling important research questions relating to social history and immigration studies they have rarely joined forces, or engaged with stakeholder groups from other disciplines. Furthermore, relatively few projects have moved beyond the digitisation stage to exploit text content and enhance usability and searchability through the use of corpus techniques and tools. Different letter collections cannot easily interconnect if they are simply digitised without annotation and markup, and some search pathways through the material will remain unavailable if software tools are not employed to process this encoding.

The Solution and Approach
The aim of our research network is to bring together various stakeholder groups working with emigrant letter collections to discuss issues and challenges surrounding digitisation, build capacity relating to correspondence annotation and the use of corpus tools, and initiate the process of interconnecting resources to encourage cross-disciplinary research. Central to this is the development of a system of correspondence annotation and markup to represent the linguistic, structural, discoursal, contextual and physical properties of the letters, thus offering different layers of meaning and ‘ways in’ to the texts. This allows for more sophisticated searches, and also the presentation of outputs through meaningful visualisations.

The Benefits
Our aim is to improve interconnectivity between existing digital collections of migrant correspondence and develop a blueprint for greater connectivity across a wider range of digitalised correspondence archives. Through the exploration of new ways of organising, interpreting and using various information, it seeks to improve access to digital resources for use by academics, the general public, and a broad range of cultural and creative industries. A key output of our work will be a much-needed set of best practice guidelines for the digitisation and annotation of correspondence collections.

The first network meeting will take place in Utrecht in May 2013.
The main objective of this workshop will be to understand and map out the linguistic, structural, discoursal, contextual and physical properties of the letters that each stakeholder group is working with, identifying where there is overlap and/or scope for cross-disciplinary research, and any issues surrounding privacy and property rights. In this workshop we anticipate exploring at least some of the following questions:
1) What do different researchers use correspondence collections for?
2) What features of the letters do researchers consider to be important and what common language can be used to express these concepts?
3) What possible barriers are there to increased interconnectivity between correspondence collections and increased collaboration across disciplines, and how might they be overcome?

More details to follow…
For more information please contact Emma Moreton:

Sunday 3 March 2013

Gargrave: Autoharp Capital of the North 1

This article was submitted on March 1 2013 to Autoharp Notes, the journal of the UK's autoharp community.  The article was rewritten at the last minute, when we heard that our bid for Arts Council funding had been successful.


Gargrave:  Autoharp Capital of the North

Gargrave Autoharp Festival
Gargrave Village Hall
Yorkshire BD23 3RD

Friday May 31, Saturday June 1, Sunday June 2 2013

Our Friends in the South
I have the email record.  I can tell you precisely when UK Autoharps President, Neil Gillard, and our Treasurer, Terry Pearson, first asked me to look at the possibility of creating an Autoharp Event somewhere in the North of England.  It was in June 2011.  The brief background is that there had never been a UKAA Event in the North of England, and we do not have many members in the North.  I live in Bradford, Yorkshire.  I get lonely.

First, look at guidelines prepared by Bob Edbon, UKAA’s Advance Organiser, and liaise with Bob.  And get a feel for the kind of building, the kind of venue, the kind of environment that might work for UKAA.  A new model, just on the horizon in 2011, was Nadine White’s little festival, in Moniaive, Scotland – I went there, and became aware of a village where a major industry, connected to local tourism, was…  music festivals.  And, of course, I went to as many of the standard UKAA days as I could.  

A little check list developed inside my head – I will mention two recent events that made it to that checklist.  Sue Edwards’ autoharp weekend in Stroud, and the Autoharp Day at the American Museum, Bath, in 2012.  At the American Museum the Autoharp was made welcome.  I am in danger of disappearing into a sort of Autoharper code here, but I think the readers of this journal will know what I mean.  So, note to self:  how do you create an event and an environment where the autoharp is welcome?  I think here of classes by Nadine and Ian White, and of reports on the UKAA Facebook pages of brave souls making brave forays into the folk clubs – work on the welcome.  The day at the American Museum in Bath was, of course, dreadfully afflicted by the rain – and lots of lovely planned things just could not happen.  So, note to self:  plan for rain.  Further note to self:  it might not rain.

And, of course, note to self:  plan for Mike Fenton.  Plan for Mike Fenton’s diary, plan for Mike Fenton’s van.  That van full of autoharps.  I recall once at Sorefingers there was a crisis one evening when Mike Fenton could not find the keys to his van.  We searched through the grass in the dark, with torchlight and fingers.  Fraught, intense, of course – keys are anxious things.  But, I realise now, in that van rides the future of the autoharp in the England.  And a general note about planning an autoharp event:  we must look after our professionals.

Our Friends in the North
So, back at my home in Yorkshire…  Look at costs and possible budgets.  And then begin prospecting.  I talked to musician friends, and friends in other branches of the arts and culture businesses.  Looking at venues was a curious mix of the tedious and the depressing.  I recalled places where I had taken part in events, or I had been part of planning events.  When I went to visit I would find a derelict building with its slates stolen.  Or I would find a shutter-encased fortress, in a car park full of broken glass.  And I would think:  I cannot bring my delicate autoharpers here.  Increasingly as venues were suggested I would first check them out on Google Maps and Snaps.  And I made the decision – and I say this with a certain amount of guilt, and I have since been challenged about the decision – to stop looking in the cities and urban areas of Yorkshire.  It would have been just too difficult to move into some areas with something small scale, new and strange.

I began to start conversations, with possible centres, community groups, music clubs and music groups.  One failed extended conversation is worth mentioning – with Skipton, the attractive market town in North Yorkshire, where I have friends and contacts.  Skipton – a bit like Moniaive - has a regular cycle of festivals and cultural events.  Friends of mine are involved in the Puppet Festival, other friends are involved in the Waterways Festival.  And, suddenly, there was a gap in the 2013 sequence of festivals, when our friends in the Waterways Festival pulled out.  Skipton asked us if we would like to fill that gap.  It was too big a gap for Autoharp alone, but Bob Ebdon and I put work into seeing how you could develop an Autoharp-centred event in a market town, with the help of the other lesser-spotted musical instruments.  There was great enthusiasm – musicians wanted it.  It would have come together.  But we were really involved, of course, in local politics.  Skipton has three different levels of local government, and communication had broken down about the needs of the Waterways Festival.  The threat of our proposed music festival was enough to mend communication.  Note to self:  re-read Winifred Holtby, South Riding.

Some possible venues, especially the ones with professional management in place, are impossible for other reasons.  There is no possibility of dialogue, no flexibility, no autonomy.  When we approach them we are not even a customer, we are a resource to be exploited.  There is no way of beginning the conversation – that we are bringing something new into a community.  (To win that argument, of course, we must bring something new into the community.)  I feel now, after talking to friends in music, theatre and other cultural businesses, that this is a real problem in this country.  I know the debates – but there is little point in building and servicing venues if creative people cannot afford to use them.  And audiences do not enter them.  And I am thinking here of that derelict building with its slates stolen.  Some venue costs look to me unrecoverable.  It was clear that budgets must be tweaked - a small, national organisation like UK Autoharps can only do so much with its members’ subscriptions and good will.  A major factor in planning any event nowadays is the cost of diesel – especially an event in the North of England.  Think of Mike Fenton’s van…

Gargrave Autoharp Festival
Then began the conversation with Gargrave Village Hall.  We are really fortunate to have met Sally Thomas and her husband Roland, who have taken on the work of continuing the conversation within the Village Hall committee and within the Village community.  Sally and Roland found us that weekend, the weekend of Saturday June 1 2013 – none of the other regular Village Hall users were using it.  We have tweaked the budget – because we have an alliance with the local community, and through them with the local authorities, we can put in credible funding applications. 

As I write, comes the news that our bid for Arts Council funding has been successful.  The immediate consequences are that we can treat our professionals with the respect that they have earned and deserved.  And we can safeguard UK Autoharps development fund for further projects next year.

Contact with the local community brings local knowledge, so that we are plugged into local community groups, listings, newspapers, radio, web sites.  Gargrave is a very attractive village, near Skipton, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.  I can bring my delicate autoharpers here.  The core of our standard Saturday Autoharp Day is in place, June 1, with demonstrations and classes.

The further funding tweak - alongside Arts Council support - is that Gargrave Village Hall is letting us have the use of the venue for free.  In return we will put on a Grand Concert, Autoharp and Friends, on the evening of Saturday June 1.  The 'And Friends' bit means that we can offer a balanced evening, reaching out to our musician and performer contacts and colleagues in Yorkshire - the contacts that Bob Ebdon and I have made.  I have already had to turn down two quite significant local bands, who offered to play at our concert for free.  It is a question of balance.  The Grand Concert must showcase the Autoharp.  (And then some Friends...)

We are in Gargrave as guests of the community - we should, like good guests, bring a small gift.  It turns out that Gargrave has its own poet, Robert Story, who died in 1860.  They don't quite know what to make of him.  But we do.  Robert Story wrote song lyrics.  My suggestion is that we take a couple of Robert Story lyrics and perform them at our Grand Concert.  Most of his work is now freely available on Google Books.  I am writing a series of articles for the Gargrave Village Magazine.  The first will be about the Autoharp and our hopes for the Gargrave Autoharp Festival.  They have now asked me to write a further article, about Robert Story.  I can do that. 

Meanwhile I go to every community meeting that will give me a chance to speak.  Gargrave's pub is involved.  And we will have a Moniaive-style Autoharp Service in St. Andrew's, Gargrave's beautiful church, on the morning of Sunday June 1.  Everyone in Gargrave now knows what an Autoharp looks like - they are still desperately waiting to meet someone who can really play the damn thing.  So far they have had to make do with me.

Patrick O'Sullivan
March 1 2013

Thursday 21 February 2013

Bradford's own Stephanie Hladowski shortlisted for music award

Bradford's own Stephanie Hladowski has been shortlisted for

The Spiral Awards 2013 - Best Female Singer music award


The Spiral Awards 2013 - Best Debut Album

The Wild Wild Berry
Stephanie Hladowski & C. Joynes

Go to those web sites, and VOTE...

Stephanie's beautiful and accurate voice will be familiar to Bradford's folk music world, and to followers of world music on BBC Radio 3

'In an exclusive Late Junction session, English folk songs are explored by the exquisite young folk singer Stephanie Hladowski and experimental finger-picking guitarist C Joynes...'

See also

'Terrific album of traditional English folksong - 11 pieces specially sourced from the archive at Cecil Sharp House, to be precise - interpreted by singer Stephanie Hladowski and multi-instrumentalist C Joynes. Whether you're a fully switched-on folk beard or a relatively inexperienced adventurer in Electric Eden, this is a fascinating journey through the landscape, magick and jerry-built mythology of our fair island - try listening to a tune like 'Lord Bateman', driven by Joynes' by turns courtly, ornate and droning, raga-like guitar, and tell us it doesn't speak to something ancient in you and the world around you. 'Flash Company' is a stunning acapella that highlights Hladowski's pristine, characterful vocal talent, but the guitar treatments - at once jazzy, bluesy, medievalist, Arabesque, betraying the influence of John Renbourn, Davey Graham and Bert Jansch - cast every bit as strong a spell, perhaps even stronger. A superb and timeless record, one that we can see ourselves listening to again and again, recommended to fans not only of the aforementioned but also Current 93, Pentangle, Shirley Collins, Fairport Convention and Andrew King.'

Friday 15 February 2013

EXTRACTS, President Michael D. Higgins, Reflecting on Irish Migrations

EXTRACTS, President Michael D. Higgins, Reflecting on Irish Migrations

Reflecting on Irish Migrations: Some issues for the Social Sciences

Michael D. Higgins, Uachtarán na hÉireann, President of Ireland at NYU Glucksman Ireland House, Thursday, 3rd May 2012

I am delighted to be in Glucksman Ireland House in New York University, one of the highest ranking academic Irish Studies Centres in the U.S. Those of us who value the importance of Irish Studies and in particular, the importance of its accessibility in the wider Irish Diaspora, owe a deep debt of gratitude to the late Lew Glucksman and Loretta Brennan Glucksman. I am especially, pleased that Loretta is with us today...

... I am very much a supporter of the view put forward by Patrick O’Sullivan that Irish migration studies has to be an interdisciplinary exercise and I applaud his every efforts to give meaning to this through his six volume edited series – The Irish World Wide History, Heritage, Identity which of course has been succeeded by further scholarship and this had led to revisions which he has acknowledged. Nevertheless, his views on how the Irish migrations might best be studied were important and his delivery on these with the six volumes in the 1990s was a real contribution.

The rewards of a multi-disciplinary approach to Irish migration are, I repeat, rich. Yet as Patrick O’Sullivan has pointed out this has been difficult to achieve. His paper Developing Irish Diaspora Studies: A Personal View in New Hibernian Review in 2003 spelled that out:

“No one academic discipline is going to tell us everything we want to know about the Irish Diaspora. The study of migration, emigration, immigration, population movements, flight scattering, networks, transnational communities, diaspora – this study demands an interdisciplinary approach.”

Patrick O’Sullivan made his significant contribution at a time when migration theory and migration studies were being contracted back to individual disciplines or allowed an eclectic existence within what was regarded as core subjects which, it was often asserted by their leading practitioners did not need the discomfort, or the challenge of interdisciplinarity.

... I believe that an inclusive scholarship would have benefitted from such an interdisciplinary approach that while reflecting a respect for the different tools of analysis in different disciplines at the same time was able to draw on the benefit of transcending boundaries. This argument has been well made by Patrick O’Sullivan in his state of the field article on Irish Diaspora Studies to which I earlier referred.

It may be that what has to be overcome by scholars is the fear that by a particular approach to migration we are seeking to colonise it at the expense of other approaches, or that by failures to regard such a study of migration all the more valuable because, as Edward Said would put it, it exists in the interstices, we allow it to be relegated to an exotic or eclectic existence as an afterthought in a department that travels under a different and more grandiose title. Patrick O’Sullivan is very complimentary to the scholarship of NYU Glucksman Ireland House as exceptional in avoiding such pitfalls...

...Patrick O’Sullivan noted in the general introduction to his series the fact that Everett S. Lee’s theory of migration had had little influence on Irish migration studies. I agree with Patrick O’Sullivan that the general scheme in Lee’s work might have enabled us to conceptualise Irish migration within a larger and more general framework of migrant theory. I was aware of this in Manchester and felt it was a quite valuable approach in correcting some of the over-determined features of the Push-Pull model.


Wednesday 6 February 2013

Gargrave Autoharp Festival - Accomodation

Gargrave Autoharp Festival
Weekend of Friday May 31, Saturday June 1, Sunday June 2, 2013

Gargrave is a pretty  village, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, not far from the market town Skipton.  The main road through the village is the A65.  The Pennine Way, long distance footpath, comes down to the village, before climbing to Malham.  The Leeds & Liverpool Canal, one of the 3 trans-Pennine canals, goes through the village.

Gargrave has its own railway station, on the Leeds-Morecambe line - which also connects with the Settle-Carlisle line.  The local large and busy station is Skipton, ten minutes drive away.  If you travel by train and you let us know your time of arrival, we can meet you with a car.

Remember that the Gargrave Village Hall is the main venue, and the Masons Arms, Gargrave, is our main pub. 

See the simple map on

The Masons Arms does not seem to want an apostrophe...


A:  Gargrave

Masons Arms - pub and B&B

John Baker, the landlord, is very helpful and supportive.

Tel: 01756 749 304

River Cottage B&B
Kath and Keith Bradley, very helpful and supportive.

Contact Information
Tel: 01756 749541

The Old Swan Inn - pub and B&B
The future of this pub is not really clear - various refurbishments are planned, and the position might be clearer before May 2013.
Check the state of play by phoning Tel.  01756 749232

Premier Inn

The Premier Inn, run by Leanne Richardson, is on the western edge of Gargrave, where the A65 crosses the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.  It shares a site with the Anchor Inn, a Brewers Fayre pub restaurant.  There is a safe walk to the centre of the village, along the towpath.

B:  Camp and Caravan

Generally caravan and camper van people have their own contacts and lists.  But, briefly, Eshton Road Caravan Park is quite small, on the eastern edge of Gargrave, next to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.  There is an easy walk into the village, along the canal towpath.

Eshton Road Caravan Park
Eshton Road
North Yorkshire
BD23 3PN
Contact Details
Tel: 01756 749229
Fax: 01756 748060

There are many other Camp and Caravan sites nearby, in Skipton and in the Yorkshire Dales generally.

C:  Further Afield

Skipton is nearby, and has very many hotels and B&Bs, of every standard...  See

...and many other web sites. 

Gargrave is about 10 minutes drive from the centre of Skipton.  There is a Travelodge on the Gargrave edge of Skipton, on the Skipton by-pass - so 5 minutes drive.  The Travelodge is a bit isolated.  On the bypass.

If you do book accommodation in Skipton make sure that the parking problem is solved.  The more established hotels, like the Heriot and the Rendezvous, have their own car parks.  Otherwise, parking in Skipton is annoying and/or expensive.

Near to Gargrave, but NOT walking distance, are other possibilities - depending on budgets.  For example

The Coniston Hotel

Newton Grange

All of the villages and towns around Gargrave, especially within the Yorkshire Dales, have hotels, B&Bs, camp and caravan sites.  There are also many holiday cottages, but they are usually let through agencies/web sites, and usually by the week.  Weekends are sometimes available - I am trying to talk directly to the holiday cottage owners through our local contacts, but cannot promise anything.

For those in an extravagant or adventurous mood it is possible to hire a canal boat in Skipton, or nearby, bring the boat up the locks and moor in Gargrave.  But canal boat hire is not cheap.

For those who want to experience the most beautiful stretch of canal in England...  I will be bringing my boat down from Barnoldswick (pronounced Barlick) to Gargrave a few days before the Gargrave Autoharp Festival, and we can take about 8 passengers.  The journey takes a whole day by boat, 20 minutes by car.

Patrick O'Sullivan