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Custom and creativity: the chicken and egg of folk performance histories

This page contains brief details about the video recording; the video (embedded in the page); an abstract for the talk; links to additional resources;  speaker biography and a summary.

Video recording of talk

Recording of a Morris Federation talk on “Custom and creativity: the chicken and egg of folk performance histories” by Peter Harrop held on Zoom on 5 February 2022. The #MorrisFedvideo lasts for 1 hour 22 minutes.



The talk draws on Peter’s editorial and introductory contributions to The Routledge Companion to English Folk Performance published in 2021. He uses examples of morris dancing, mumming and sword dancing to consider four broad points:

  1. Firstly, an acceptance that these forms were creatively devised by people who thought they were a good idea at the time of their making.
  2. Secondly, to consider how such apparently transient, migratory and inconstant forms so quickly achieved customary status.
  3. Thirdly – both for better and worse – to acknowledge the role of Victorian scholarship and Edwardian popular thought in conferring longevity and romance on certain plays and dances but not others.
  4. Fourthly, to seek out any special features of performance – associated with the customary and not often found elsewhere – that enhance our appreciation while gently prodding our designation folk.

This talk was recorded from an online event via Zoom on 5 February 2022.

Additional resources

Links to related resources:

Speaker biography

During the 1970s Peter Harrop danced and acted with Monkseaton Morrismen and Folk Dance Club which sparked a lifelong interest in customary performance. He went on to study drama and folklore, gaining a PhD from the Institute of Dialect and Folklife Studies at Leeds University. He is now Professor Emeritus in Drama at the University of Chester.

Recent publications by Peter Harrop include:

  • Mummers’ Plays Revisited (Routledge, Advances in Theatre and Performance, 2020)
  • The Routledge Companion to English Folk Performance (with Steve Roud, 2021)
  • Staging, Playing, Pyrotechnics and Magic: Performance Conventions in Early English Theatre. An edition of research articles by the theatre historian Philip Butterworth (Routledge, Variorum Collected Studies, 2022)


  • Title: Custom and creativity: the chicken and egg of folk performance histories
  • Speaker: Peter Harrop
  • Facilitator: Pauline Woods-Wilson
  • Type: talk
  • Date of talk: 5 February 2022
  • Date page published: 14 May 2023

 #MFvideo  #MorrisFedvideo  #MorrisFedvideos

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