An Artist in Residence at Cecil Sharp House

This is the beginning of an archive of activity during my residency at Cecil Sharp House, the headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society during 2009. I am working as artist in residence and will be working on curating and education projects as well as using the House as a base for my practice over the coming year. Hopefully I will find some space in the busy building to make some new work, and make use of the Vaughn Williams Memorial Library. I'm hoping to as expand my folk expertise too, and meet some of the wide and varied communities that use Cecil Sharp house.

Cecil Sharp House has always had an exotic air to me, and since I first arrived at the library for a research visit during a short trip from New Zealand in 1999, it has seemed like a dazzling archive of folk knowledge and material. The library still has a familiar smell to it, and is obviously overcrowded with amazing volumes of folk tunes and folklore from around the world. The building itself is from another age, an age where grand national and dare I say it political ideas of what folk culture itself was are different from what we know it to be today. Having recently returned from an arts residency project in Poland, where I saw first hand the centrally funded folk arts institutes and organisations that operate on a regional basis, I am hoping to get a better feel for how things work in England over the course of the coming months.

At this stage its almost too much to process and find a place to begin as an artist. I like to think of myself as an agent from the Antipodes sent on behalf of the Morris and Sword dancers of Aotearoa, and I will duly report back on my findings and work in these pages over throughout the year.

Matthew Cowan
January 2009