Folklore and customs by Dr Peter Millington



From the beginnings of radio in the UK, broadcasters have sought to report traditional events and activities. They have also interviewed the public about their daily lives and special interests, and inevitably the interviews have covered folklore topics to a lesser or greater extent. This is even more so nowadays with the popularity of phone-in programmes. Unfortunately, much if not most of this material is transient. If they are recorded at all, the tapes or discs may be binned or recycled after a fairly short period of time. The earliest BBC programmes were nearly always scripted, and these scripts may have been less selectively retained.

The BBC Sound Archive is generally not accessible to non-BBC personnel, but a large collection of copies has been deposited with the British Library Sound Archive (BLSA), based at St. Pancras, London. The BLSA also has additional material from other sources, and has made particular efforts to acquire material on dialect and traditional music. [Accessed 3rd May 2008]

The BBC Written Archives are accessible to accredited researchers. Their holdings of scripts from the Midlands Region only begin in 1952. Some scripts may have made their way into the general Radio Talks collection, for which the names or titles of contributors are required. Unfortunately, the Archive does not covers the output of Nottingham’s first local radio station 5NG. A typed transcript exists of traditional “Ploughboy Rhymes” that were broadcast on 5NG by Cropwell Bishop resident Harry Knight around 1930. This is privately owned, but its existence suggests that other transcripts and broadcasting scripts may also come to light. [ Accessed 3rd May 2008]

The situation regarding commercial broadcasts is unclear.

Some selected broadcast material has been added to the Nottinghamshire Local Studies Library’s oral history collection. Occasionally, interested individuals have tape-recorded specific programmes, and these sometimes have made their way into public archives.

One set of BBC recordings is of particular relevance – the field recordings of traditional singers and musicians and of customs collected by Peter Kennedy, Alan Lomax and others at the BBC’s request. The BLSA has copies of these, as does the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. However, many of the recordings were also commercially released, notably on the Folktrax label. Unfortunately these recordings contain very little Nottinghamshire material.

There are two useful sound archives that emanated from the Survey of English Dialects and its successor projects. The first is the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (LAVC) which holds the archives of the now closed Institute of Dialect and Folklife Studies, University of Leeds, and the second is the still-growing archive of the National Centre for English Cultural Tradition (NATCECT), University of Sheffield (previously known as the Centre for English Cultural Tradition and Language – CECTAL – and before that the Survey of Language and Folklore). Both archives contain substantial collections of sound recordings of interviews undertaken during the dialect surveys, and field recordings of more general folklore interest. The catalogue of the LAVC is searchable online at A summary of the NATCECT Archive’s contents is available online at, and more detailed enquiries should be addressed to the Archivist. Although national in scope, a lot of the NATCECT material relates to Sheffield and the surrounding area, thereby including north western districts of Nottinghamshire.


The numerous personal reminiscences in the Nottinghamshire Local Studies Library’s oral history collection include folklore material. The difficulty can be trying to locate this material among more general recollections.

Many folk enthusiasts have the odd tape recording they have made of someone they have met at performances who had personal recollections of doing something similar in their youth. In Nottinghamshire these may be folk songs, but are particularly likely to be memories of folk plays. Obviously, if these remain in private ownership, their utility is limited. However, such collectors sometimes pass copies of their material to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and/or to local libraries. Anyone who has such material is encouraged to do likewise.