Scottish Folk Drama in the 21st Century


Living Tradition and Cultural Revivalism: Scottish Folk Drama in the 21st Century

If you are aware of any folk dramas that are associated with your community or geographical area, Jos Collins, a PhD student at University of Edinburgh would be very grateful to hear from you. Details of the Project are below.

Folk play in the broadest sense is experiencing a revival in Scotland. In recent years, we have seen the reintroduction of a variety of forms of community drama traditionally performed throughout Britain since the medieval period.

The main aim of the project (a PhD thesis) is to explore the place of revived folk drama in contemporary Scottish society through the following:

- to produce a survey of Scottish folk drama activities today;
- to examine community-led performances and related activities ethnographically;
- to evaluate the motivations and aspirations of participants and organisers in order to assess their contribution to aspects of local identity, ideas of tradition and authenticity, and community dynamics;
- to investigate how folk drama as a living practice contributes to developing conceptualisations of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland;
- and to contribute to the newly emerging ‘Creative Ethnology’ movement.

The first goal is to catalogue the various local community folk ‘dramas’ of Scotland: public performances that celebrate and reference traditional culture, such as: the intra-community ball games of Kirkwall and Jedburgh, the Paisley Halloween festival; Edinburgh’s Beltane fire festival; and the many diverse ridings of the marches. Folk dramas can be large or small scale; annual or one-off performances. Recently, Jos was part of a small group who performed a short play based around the hunting of Jenny Wren (set in the dark days of winter), where, dressed as birds, they enacted the idea of banishing entities associated with darkness in order to ensure the return of the sun:

The first phase of the study is to find out what traditional narratives are being performed in Scotland, and to speak with those involved in these performances.

If you are involved in such activities or are aware of any folk dramas that are associated with your community or geographical area, please contact:

Jos Collins.

PhD Student
Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies (LINCS)
G.29 Mary Burton Building, Heriot-Watt University
Edinburgh EH14 4AS