Heriot Watt University

SGSAH ARCS Studentship 2017-2020

Living Tradition and Cultural Revival:

Scottish Folk Drama in the 21st Century

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A collaboration between

  • Intercultural Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University
  • Celtic and Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh
  • Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS), Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh

Folk drama is associated primarily with the transition from one year or season to the next. Once widespread throughout Britain, especially during the dark half of the year (from Hallowe’en onwards), folk plays and performances had disappeared by the mid-twentieth century. However, there has been a resurgence of interest in folk plays and folk playing in Scotland in recent times, such as the revival of a summer-winter battle at Beltane. TRACS has been at the forefront of folk play revival, offering a series of workshops based around traditional folk drama. Serious academic study of cultural revivalism is still in its infancy and the case studies which have been undertaken to date have almost all been retrospective. The recent and nascent re-introduction of a variety of forms of folk plays in Scotland, however, offers a rare chance to study revivalism in situ and in real time. It thus opens up opportunities for examining the uses of intangible cultural heritage in contemporary Scotland, and specifically how intangible cultural heritage operates at a local level in community and identity building.

The aim of this project is to examines the place of revived folk drama in contemporary Scottish society. This is achieved through the following objectives:

  1. a detailed quantitative survey to assess the amount and frequency of Scottish folk drama activities current in Scotland today
  2. ethnographic fieldwork, to closely examine a range of folk drama community-led performances and related activities
  3. an evaluation of the motivations and aspirations of participants and organisers and an assessment of their contribution to such factors as the construction or reshaping of local identity, ideas of tradition, self-definition and community dynamics
  4. an investigation of how folk drama as a living practice contributes to developing conceptualisations of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland
  5. a contribution to the newly emerging ‘Creative Ethnology’ movement being led by the three partner institutions involved

A central aspect of this ARCS is that the studentship has a practice-based element. Collaborating with TRACS will provide the opportunity for the student to work closely with TRACS and the Scottish Storytelling Centre, helping to develop a range of workshops and community engagement activities centred around the practice of traditional drama. Thus s/he will gain experience of working within a relatively new and dynamic national organisation which plays a key role in the ongoing development of arts and culture in Scotland and be able to engage with a wide range of theatre groups, heritage groups and other associations.

Principal Supervisor: Dr Kerstin Pfeiffer (Heriot-Watt University)

Co-Supervisors: Prof. Gary West and Dr Neill Martin (University of Edinburgh)

Non-Academic Supervisor: Dr Donald Smith (TRACS, Scottish Storytelling Centre)

The project is expected to commence in the autumn of 2017. For further details, please contact Dr Kerstin Pfeiffer.

Our People

Research Interests: identity
Regional Expertise: European Union, Scotland, United Kingdom
Research Interests: archives, empathy, ethnicity, heritage, nationalism

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