Sheffield has a wide range of sessions including English and Irish tunes, singarounds and open mic sessions. There is a website run by Jaki that has an up to date list of sessions- Sessions website, facebook page.
The Sheffield Folk Sessions Festival takes place over Easter weekend in the pubs around Kelham Island. There are lots of song and tune sessions and a concert on Sunday afternoon.
Bradfield Traditional Music Weekend takes place in Dungworth in mid July but has been cancelled for 2024 due to uncertainty over the future of the Royal Hotel.
Sheffield is home to a wonderful and active tradition of singing local carols in pubs. This attracts visitors to Sheffield from around the world.
Bands of musicians were stopped from playing in churches in the 19th century and started a tradition of playing in pubs which has continued in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire. The songs that were written by local people have been passed down the generations in what is one of the last remaining aural folk traditions to continue in England. Some of the songs are only sung in Sheffield- some only in one pub. There are multiple tunes for While Shepherds Watched many of which include a fugue where the parts (mainly 2 parts- top and bass) intertwine. Songs are sometimes unaccompanied, or accompanied by organ, brass band or string group. Singing is loud and joyful. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy it- it’s a community getting together to enjoy singing together and pass on the tradition.
Words are usually provided and new singers are always made welcome. Singing sessions start in mid November (after Remembrance Sunday) and go on to New Year. There is an excellent guide to the sessions at the local carol website.
More information about the sings, village carol books and the festivals of village carols is available on Prof Ian Russell’s village carols website.
Those who want to sing hymns in the pub don’t have to wait for Christmas! There is a Sacred Harp group that runs Shape-note sings at the Rutland Arms 7PM on first Monday and 2PM on 3rd Sunday every month and Gardeners Rest 7PM third Wednesday every month. These are unaccompanied, 4 part harmony sings using the shape-note system of musical notation designed to make it easy to read music, the hymns are from the Southern American tradition with some fantastic harmonies. These are free sessions, just turn up. They are held in the upstairs function rooms of the pubs Sacred Harp Website. More about shape-note singing here.
There is also a session singing hymns from the Sankey hymn book usually first Sunday of the month (not August and December ) 8pm at the Plough, Low Bradfield. If you are interested please email email@example.com and I can pass your details on to Paul to go on the mailing list.
There is a Whitsun sing, in 2024 this will be held at Dungworth Village Hall Sunday 19th May (as the Royal Hotel will be closed, hopefully temporarily) and a Harvest sing at Rivelin Hotel, Stannington. Details will appear in the what’s on guide.
Dance sides: There are over 20 active Morris, Rapper and Long-sword dance sides in Sheffield. For a list please see James Merryclough’s April 2022 article on tradfolk website which includes a list of active sides.
Social Dances– Regular monthly dances- some don’t run during August- check the Facebook groups for more details.
Ceilidh Soc – The University of Sheffield’s Ceilidh Soc runs ceilidhs through term time, about every 2 weeks, open to all.
Sheffield Scratch Contra hold contra dances first Thursday of most months at Memorial Hall, Forbes Road, S6 2NW
Sheffield Scratch Ceilidh 3rd Wednesday of the month, at Broomhall Community Centre.
Playford in the Pub– Playford dances at Shakespeare’s last Thursday in the month
Eurosessions – Musicians workshop and Bal dance usually held at Shakespeare’s on the second Thursday of the month, they also host larger events with popular bands at other venues including Crookes Social Club.
Active against discrimination
Sheffield folk guide aims to be part of the movement in the UK folk scene that is actively working against racism and discrimination. The vast majority of people involved in the UK folk scene- artists, event promoters and audience are welcoming, inclusive people. Unfortunately, as in all parts of society, you may occasionally experience or witness inappropriate language or behaviour when attending events. This is not acceptable and I would urge anyone who encounters racist, ageist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or other offensive behaviour to bring this to the attention of the event organiser, if you feel comfortable to do so. If you would like me to pass on any details of inappropriate behaviour on an anonymous basis please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources of information and support:
Stop Hate UK Stop Hate UK is a national organisation working to challenge all forms of Hate Crime and discrimination, based on any aspect of an individual’s identity. They operate a 24-hour anti-Hate Crime reporting service.
Esperance “Esperance is a grassroots collective of people who wish to discuss and address gender equality issues in the English folk scene.” Their website includes recommendations for organisers of festivals and events for safeguarding and promoting inclusion and avoiding discrimination.
Musicians Union “The MU created the Music Sector Code of Practice, in partnership with the ISM, to tackle and prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination in the music sector. It sets out principles to help employers meet their legal requirements, and presents a shared vision for promoting and maintaining a positive working culture.”
Access Folk University of Sheffield. “the Access Folk research project is exploring ways to increase and diversify participation in folk singing in England
Local Folk Radio
Thank Goodness It’s Folk is a weekly radio show on Sheffield Live hosted by Sam Hindley and James Fagan. It’s on Fridays at 10AM, 93.2FM and on the website. It is also available after broadcast on mixcloud. Includes interviews with musicians due to play in Sheffield, new releases and “Friday’s Child” feature on the Child Ballads.
Folk Awhile Weekly Folk Show on Penistone FM presented by Paul Taylor. Broadcast Tuesdays 7-8PM on 95.7FM and available on the website
Other useful links
Soundpost is a Sheffield based organisation that runs folk events including an annual singing weekend and children’s and adult music groups
Tykes Stirrings is a quarterly print magazine about folk music, song and dance. It covers Yorkshire and surrounds.