The Idler Guide to British Folk with Will Hodgkinson

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British folk music is a rich and fascinating world, but a notoriously difficult one to define. Is it something that involves acoustic guitars and real ale? Does a folk song have to be about feckless maids and pretty ploughboys or is it more a process than a genre, a way of passing stories down from one generation to another?

Will Hodgkinson addresses questions like this in a six-part guide to British folk, but more than that, he celebrates the history, myth and visionary character of a form that, having grown up thinking folk was something best avoided at all costs, he has grown to love.

Learn about folk-collecting pioneers like Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and see how it came to incorporate the weirdest aspects of British life from 1920s pagan boy scouts the Kibbo Kift to 1970s hippie mystics the Incredible String Band. Unearth the alternative worldviews of folk ballads like ‘The Bitter Withy’, in which a vengeful child Jesus kills three young lords by making them walk over a rainbow and into a lake, and meet people like Vashti Bunyan, the former 60s pop starlet who gave it all up to travel from London to the Isle of Skye in a gypsy caravan. And discover how folk music grew out of the land and, most importantly, the people of Britain.

Course Outline

This course consists of six video lessons. It also includes handy PDF notes, a Spotify playlist of tunes selected by Will, a quiz, a certificate of completion and access to the community forum.

Lesson 1: What is Folk?

Lesson 2: The Invention of British Folk

Lesson 3: Music of the People

Lesson 4: The Acoustic Boom

Lesson 5: Getting It Together In The Country

Lesson 6: Folk’s Not Dead

About the tutor

Will Hodgkinson is the author of Guitar Man, Song Man, The Ballad Of Britain and The House Is Full Of Yogis and the presenter of the Sky Arts series Songbook. He has written on music and culture for the GuardianMojo and Vogue and is chief rock and pop critic for The Times.