Interview with Jill Palmer-Swift, 16 December 1998
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Essex Folk Movement Oral History Project
Level: Sub-Series
Scope and Content:
Jill Palmer-Swift [JPS] interviewed by Sue Cubbin [SC] on 16 December 1998. JPS talks about starting the 'Seven Straw Braids', dancing and researching Essex folk dances, and the dulcimer.

Tape 1 Side A

[00:00:00] JPS talks about her family; her parents’ involvement in music in Suffolk, instruments, other family; researching her family and visiting Suffolk as a child.
[00:04:32] Music in childhood; dislike of playing the piano; singing; attending school in Ilford; music at school, choir, inspiration from her music teacher; being taught folk songs; joining a guitar group in sixth form, Pete Seeger songs; becoming aware of the folk revival; friends that were folk dancers and members of Roding Valley Morris Men; going to folk weekends at Clarence House, YMCA in Tottenham Court Road; going to Cecil Sharp House; the division between younger dancers and the older 'felt skirt brigade'.
[00:09:42] Attending university in London, going to folk clubs; seeing Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, and Martin Carthy at the Bungies and the Troubadour; hearing about Woodie Guthrie and American musicians; attending dancing classes; being both a singer and a dancer.
[00:11:10] Music at folk clubs in the 1960s, protest songs, Scottish songs, Irish songs, in fashion songs, 'Waly, Waly'; the late development of English folk revival music; mixed ethnicities of London folk clubs, emigration; lack of an Essex or East Anglian tradition around the 1960s; the popularity of Pat Shaw; moving to Ingatestone and learning about Braids in 1979; knowing Phillip Heath-Coleman; being invited to Blackmore Folk Club around 1976, leading to involvement in Essex folk circuit; supporting Blackmore Morris; knowing John Smith, the archivist at the Essex Record Office, and finding dances for Blackmore Morris women to perform; first dances for Braids, 'Sally's Taste', 'The Tartar' and 'A Trip to Dunmow'; possibility of more in the archive.
[00:17:54] Asking the women of Blackmore Folk Club and wives of Blackmore Morris about their interest in dancing; the origin of the name 'Seven Straw Braids'; researching a variety of south English dances over three years; learning about the Great Wishford Faggot Dance; coincidentally discovering south Essex dances from Peter Oakley, 'Peppers Black' and 'To the Camp'; incorporating 'To the Camp' into 'Herongate Hay'.
[00:22:30] Raising money through a sponsored rant, covered in local paper around 1979; buying costumes; finding a musician, Chris Beale, Paul McCann, Sam Bond, Jayne de Larre and her sister Margaret; pictures of the Seven Straw Braids; the original seven 'Braids', Deborah Crabwyke, Moira Tarrant, Barbara Philpot [later Jones], Pam, Mandy, and Vivian; later members including Jo Delderield; their involvement in folk music at the time of interview.
[00:27:59] Performing for 17 years; dancing in Ingatestone and at Ingatestone Hall; co-sponsoring Ingatestone Folk Festival; performing at Rochester Folk Festival, St Neots, Felixstowe, Billericay Carnival, Romford Carnival, and Chelmsford Carnival; going to Germany; their tenth anniversary performance. Discuss the recording equipment SC is using.

Tape 1 Side B

[00:00:00] Discusses their tenth anniversary, the twinning of Brentwood and Roth in Bavaria, performing with German dance group Trachtenereih [translation: Costume Union] Spalt and Blackmore Morris; being invited to Germany; individual friendships.
[00:03:42] Uniqueness of the Braids; regrets about the group folding; different sources of dances, Norfolk Record Office burning down, learning from people like Peter Oakley; the Thaxted Morris tradition, mixed country dance; Russell and Margaret Caton, Simon and Bobbie Ritchie; dancing in the Epping area.
[00:10:30] The difficulty of researching from notation instructions. Shares a notation with SC. Talks about the interpretation of dances; the difficulty of having a 'personal' dance written down; interpretations of 'the Fandango'; balancing the history of the dance and making the it interesting for the audience; the Braids re-creating dances and writing new dances around old traditions; interpretation of Morris dancing.
[00:18:44] The history of dances; Playford dances, the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS); descriptions of dancing, 'Up and Back a double with a rise', English style, Tudor and Elizabethan dances; helping interpretation; good evening dance teachers; the 'laziness' of walking dances; making dances fun and sociable.
[00:23:50] The differences between social and display dances; Braids as both; ritual dances, 'Great Wishford', 'Epping Forest' and 'Mona's Delight'; the history of the Great Wishford Faggot Dance, Salisbury Cathedral; social dances and etiquette.
[00:27:50] The history of the dulcimer; playing the dulcimer; Sue Giddings' dulcimer; description of the dulcimer and how to play it; the three-string, 'Mountain', and other dulcimers.

Tape 2 Side A

[00:00:00] How the dulcimer arrived in Britain, East Anglia, south-west Scotland, and Ireland; medieval descriptions of the dulcimer; Hungarian music; where the East Anglian dulcimer was played, busking; playing the dulcimer in Scotland; generational divide; hand-made dulcimers; Berford Angel, Billy Bennington, using hammers made of cane; a musical 'hammer' and different styles of hammering, continental; dulcimer accompanying dances; Essex dulcimer players, Nobby Clarke, Reg Reeder, Katie's Quartet and the Old Hat Band; difficulty of playing.
[00:09:01] Tuning the dulcimer; Penny Harris tuning while playing; her own dulcimer, made by Geoff Giddings, inspiration, construction. SC looks at JPS's dulcimer. Describes the dulcimer and tuning; harpsichord strings; playing in bands; competing against the accordion.
[00:18:26] Younger dancers in the Braids, Girl Guides in Ingatestone, age range; concern about dances disappearing as the Braids folded, doing workshops; organising the club, being unable to commit; trying to keep the tradition alive, writing own dances, legacy.

Recording note: Audio break while JPS talks to plumber: Tape 1 Side A [00:05:20 - 00:05:27].
Dates of Creation:
16 December 1998
1 hour 26 minutes 9 seconds
Creator Name:
Sue Cubbin
Admin History:
Jill Palmer-Swift (b.1948, Ilford) was a founding member of Seven Straw Braids, an Essex folk dancing team. She also researched and performed Essex folk dances from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century and plays the dulcimer.
Archivist Note:
Copyright transferred to ESVA
Physical Characteristics:
3 MP3 files [digital copies of original cassettes]
Related Unit of Description:
For a handwritten transcript of this recording, see SA 30/7/1/4/3
Dates of Description:
9 May 2022,,,
Not Available:
Digital item(s). For access please email ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk