Interview with Paul Kiff, 9 June 1999
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Essex Folk Movement Oral History Project
Level: Sub-Series
Scope and Content:
Paul Kiff [PK] interviewed by Sue Cubbin [SC] on 9 June 1999. PK talks about playing in his band, Bushes and Briars, his involvement in the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), the philosophy of folk music, and the state of folk music at the time of the interview.

Tape 1 Side A

[00:00:00] PK talks about his parents; father playing traditional cockney music on the piano accordion; inspiration from classical music; taking violin lessons at school; education and arts funding from the Labour council in Tottenham; playing in the National Youth Orchestra and European Youth Orchestra; stopping due to lack of interest in practice; studying at University College London (UCL) from 1967; doing session work at Decca during his gap year; awareness of folk at school but no appeal; no involvement in music at university.
[00:06:00] His marriage; moving to Essex to work as a town planner at Essex County Council; discovering Chelmsford Morris at 'A Merrie England Evening' at the Blue Boar in Maldon, around 1974; his wife being asked to join the band, with PK playing fiddle; joining practice and performing in Chelmsford Morris; differences between Chelmsford Morris and school Morris; learning songs by ear; the challenge of playing in public.
[00:10:22] His relationship with Colin Cater; his style of folk and Morris playing; learning from advice rather than records; the politics of the Chelmsford team; North West Morris; ladies Morris at Chelmsford; forming a ceilidh band, Caperceilidh, at Chelmsford, inspired by Lumps of Plum Pudding; starting a new band, Bushes and Briars, in Tollesbury in 1981.
[00:15:32] The genres performed by Bushes and Briars; the influence of traditional English country dance and Dave Brewster [DB] and Sonia Brewster from Thaxted Morris; playing at 1985 Sidmouth Folk Festival, inspired by more modern styles; playing folk tunes in a heavier style; arguments about style within the band; DB leaving; other band members; changing to Celtic music, inspired by Wolfstone; publicity and enthusiasm.
[00:19:36] Playing to suit venues; village halls disappearing, acoustics; playing rock tunes while being sympathetic to dancing; appealing to a younger audience; variation in tunes; Ashley Hutchings' style.
[00:24:44] Playing a free day of dance at Cecil Sharp House in 1988; being asked to join the EFDSS committee; trying to keep folk alive as a living tradition; looking for recognition; the debate about selling Cecil Sharp House; the negative influence of large folk festivals; reviving the society; his initiatives; the Essex Folk Association (EFA); his desire for a folk archive centre.

Tape 1 Side B

[00:00:00] The need for a 'folk record' and research; a live archive with current material; education skills and fundraising; subsidising folk festivals, a meeting with Essex County Council, feeling pushed out; the inadequacy of the EFA.
[00:03:53] Genuine folk music is; being against folk clubs and watching performers; traditional music as communal music; the value of context and content; people performing with each other at the Ship, Heybridge; informal and hybrid clubs.
[00:10:53] The difference between small clubs and large folk concerts; learning from local musicians; the hypocrisy of the commercialisation of folk; music as a pastime.
[00:14:04] His involvement in 'occupational' orchestras; the feel and technique of folk vs orchestral music; listening to a variety of music, large record collection; the difference between folk and classical; the benefits of changing repertoire; supporting researchers of folk songs.
[00:19:29] Attempting to start a Morris team in Maldon in the early 1980s; starting a women's Morris team in Tollesbury; getting a job in Saudi Arabia; returning and joining North West Morris; starting a team, eventually Blackwater Morris; expanding membership; the nomadic nature of people in the movement; his children's involvement in Morris.
[00:24:50] Irish history and politics, Protestant and Catholic versions of folk songs; the danger of playing Irish songs, offending people; dwindling anti-English tradition; preference for love songs, environmental songs, and Eric Bogle songs; picking material for the audience; contemporary working-class songs, contrast with the older tradition; using songs such as 'Bushes and Briars' to teach people.

Tape 2 Side A

[00:00:00] His worst performing experience, Irish music, commercialisation in pubs; enjoying weddings and birthday parties; building a rapport with the audience; improvisation.
[00:08:17] Attempts to vary Morris repertoire; some dances fitting some tunes; the restrictiveness of Cotswold Morris; how widespread instrument players were in past; the relative freedom of North West Morris; EFDSS freezing tunes because of their 're-enactment' philosophy; Shenfield Strawberry Fair, playing for Black Bull Clog.
[00:13:56] The future of EFDSS and possibility of getting re-involved; free time after taking early retirement; the need for volunteers.
Dates of Creation:
9 June 1999
1 hour 20 minutes
Creator Name:
Sue Cubbin
Admin History:
Paul Kiff (b.1948, Finchley) was involved in the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) and acted as chairman of the organisation in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a fiddle player, he was primarily involved in the Essex folk scene through his band, Bushes and Briars, as well as various Morris groups across the county. At the time of the interview, he was still playing with Bushes and Briars, and was thinking about getting reinvolved in EFDSS politics.
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 30/7/1/11/3
Dates of Description:
May 2022,,,
Not Available:
Digital item(s). For access please email ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk