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EFDSS announces a new commission – ‘The Theatre Ballads’

21st September 2016

Kitty Macfarlane

A project to translate traditional folk ballads into theatre has been chosen as the winner of a competitive commissioning process by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) through funding from the PRS for Music Foundation’s Talent Development Partner scheme.

The Theatre Ballads will be developed by Horse + Bamboo Theatre and feature singers and musicians Bryony Griffith, Kate Locksley, Ewan McLennan and John Kirkpatrick alongside puppeteer Gretchen Maynard-Hahn.

The Lancashire based organisation will receive a £4,000 bursary to research and develop The Theatre Ballads, working in partnership with EFDSS, The Met Bury and Colston Hall in Bristol.

The show will debut at the home of EFDSS, Cecil Sharp House in London, on March 23 2017 followed by performances at Colston Hall on March 24 and The Met on March 25.

Producer Esther Ferry-Kennington from Horse + Bamboo Theatre said:

“We are delighted to have won The Commission Award. We aim to create an evocative new look at visual theatre and folk music combining voices, harmonies, stories, puppets, music and animation. This is a new style of performance somewhere between an evening at the theatre and a music gig. It will bring theatre to the traditional music audience and traditional music to a theatre audience. Folk ballads we have been researching so far include ‘Con Yo’ Help us a Bit’, a song about the consequences of the Lancashire mills closing, which is pertinent today, that will be developed into a stop-frame animation and ‘The Female Smuggler’ that could become a suitcase puppet show.”

EFDSS has also made three awards through its Creative Seed Funding Programme that was also funded by the PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development Partner scheme. The bursaries of £750 were open to emerging artists and will fund the research and development of new work linked to the English folk arts.

The awards have been made to:

Kirsty Merryn for an album of original folk songs focusing on the stories of real and imaginary female heroes including Nelson’s mistress Emma Lady Hamilton, a midwife working in war-torn Syria, and Anna Edson Taylor, the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Haitian musician and composer Germa Adan who will write a collection of new music exploring folk music that chronicles her life journey from Haiti and the USA to England.

Kitty Macfarlane for a songwriting project exploring the topic of migration and its link to the waterways of her home county of Somerset.

Katy Spicer, EFDSS Chief Executive and Artistic Director, said:

“We were very impressed with the number and the quality of the creative ideas that were pitched to us and our partners for The Commission Award and the Creative Seed Funding Programme. The chosen projects will allow established and emerging artists to explore traditional English folk arts and deliver their own unique interpretation to audiences who may be new to the genre. They will create original material as well as build their own individual skills with support from EFDSS and our partners. We are very grateful to the PRS for Music Foundation for making us a Talent Development Partner and enabling these new works to be developed.”

EFDSS was one of 22 organisations selected by the PRS for Music Foundation to be Talent Development Partners.

The funding programmes come under the umbrella of EFDSS’ Artists’ Development Programme that provides professional development support, both creative and business, to artists at all levels of their career. For more information, go to