Social Life at a Folk Camp

Information about the activities that take place at a Folk Camp.

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Q. What is a typical Folk Camp day like?
A. After breakfast there’s always a music session, this gives everyone the opportunity to play some folk tunes. The camp musician will facilitate this and usually will start with simple tunes, progressing to harder ones. At 11 am coffee is served and afterwards there may be more workshops, for instance singing, types of dance or playing music. The afternoon is usually when people go out of camp and visit tourist attractions, go to a beach, etc. There might be a session at a pub; there could be more workshops later in the afternoon. There’s no set programme for afternoons, because much depends on the expertise of those present on the camp, what the weather is like and what attractions there are nearby. A cup of tea will be available at 4 pm. In the evening there will be dancing and singing. While the PA goes off at 11.30pm, there are often those who continue singing or just talking into the early hours. All we ask is that campers are considerate to others who may be asleep.

Q. What workshops and activities are there at Folk Camp?
A. The range of workshops at each camp varies depending on the volunteer staff and also what the campers like you both ask for and also offer to run. Typically there will be music workshops, with both easy and more advanced parts. There may be dance workshops, possibly including rapper sword, Morris dancing, clog dancing. There may be singing, such as multi-part harmony, choral, folk songs. The evening will include dancing and singing. And at week long summer camps other activities may be arranged such as trips out, pub sessions, possibly a trip or picnic to a local beauty spot or beach. As well as any music, dance or song activity, Folk Campers love to share a myriad of other pursuits; past workshops have included patchwork, spoon-jousting, lantern making, tie dye, nettle soup making and welly-wanging to name but a few.

Q. Who runs the workshops at a Folk Camp?
A. Typically most workshops are run by campers, though the camp musician will run a music workshop each morning. Remaining workshops are usually run by campers who have something to share, such as a particular type of dance, or some music that they would like to share and teach to others. The camp Leader will match up the skills on offer with the requests from campers, and arrange a workshop timetable that suits as many campers as possible.

Q. Do I have to be able to play an instrument to enjoy a Folk Camp?
A. No, the ability to make music or not won’t stop you having a good time, but if you have an instrument do bring it. Sometimes people discover other instruments during their holiday and a Folk Camp can inspire them to learn to play something new. There will be plenty of opportunities to play music with others, and also take part in other activities too.

Q. I don’t really like dancing but would love to play in the band. Will I get the opportunity?
A. Yes, at a Folk Camp you are encouraged to play along. Each camp has a musician who is assigned the job of helping you participate. You can play with the band in the evening, join in music workshops, and are likely to be able to find others to play music with informally as much as you want.

Q. I play a five-holed left-handed, E-flat nose flute. Should I bring it to the Folk Camp?
A. You must most certainly bring it, because none of us has ever heard of such a thing, so we’re all extremely interested to see it! The variety of instruments at most camps is wide, and whatever you play will be welcome.

Q. What happens after the PA goes off at 11:30?
A. It depends on the camp, on the night and what is wanted. Sometimes the dancing continues with acoustic-only music, sometimes it’s the start of late-night singing/playing. Sometimes a variety of silly games break out and sometimes people just sit around chatting. Of course not everyone stays up late, that’s up to each individual.

Q. What about singing around the camp fire?
A. There are no fires / fire-pits or campfire singing at a folk camp. However there is often late night singing round the tea-lights!

Q. How do I know what’s going on?
A. Generally the workshops take place in or around the marquee or hall. There is generally a notice board as well as announcements by the camp leaders at regular intervals like mid-morning coffee, meal times at catered camps and evening cocoa depending on the camp.

Q. What happens if it rains?
A. It usually rains at some point when camping! Because a hall or marquee is provided, there’s always somewhere to go and be warm and dry where there will be a hot drink available and something to do. This fact is one of the many benefits of coming to a Folk Camp. This is so much better than being at a normal camp site with just your family and a board game for company; instead there are other people and music to entertain you.

Q. I’m a bit worried I won’t know anyone; is there a buddy system?
A. You’ll find Folk Campers are very friendly, so if there’s anything you don’t understand, just ask a member or staff or another camper. But if you would like us to arrange for someone specifically to help you when you arrive, just ask at the time of booking. There is always a camp meeting soon after everyone has arrived, where all the domestic arrangements and health and safety details will be explained.

Q. Do I have to take part in every workshop?
A. No, workshops are voluntary – in fact you can take or leave pretty well all Folk Camp activities. There’s just one thing that we do need you to do, and that is carry out one of the camp tasks. Folk camps runs using volunteer labour, and if everyone does a very small part things work smoothly. The warden will arrange the jobs rota.

Q. Can I just visit a camp for a day or an evening?
A. Yes. Day-visitors are welcome at our camps. Some people have family living close to a camp site that come to visit. We suggest you contact us first to let us know you’re coming then someone can keep an eye out for your arrival. We ask that you check-in with the warden when you do arrive so that we have a formal record of your being on site with us. There may be a small cost depending on the length of your stay.

Q. What’s the difference between a Folk Camp and a festival?
A. At a festival, you get to choose from an extensive programme run by paid professionals where the challenge is often exhaustion from running from one event to the next! At a Folk Camp, you can request a workshop, or offer one of your own, and experience being much more an integral part of what is going on as opposed to just watching or receiving. A Folk Camp is somewhere that you can definitely ‘take part’ if you want to, whereas at a festival you are usually ‘the audience’. Nothing is guaranteed and we are constantly amazed at the variety of workshops that happen as a result. The overall pace is generally much more laid-back and relaxed with a much stronger sense of community at a Folk Camp.

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