ABOUT SUFFOLK FOLK
Suffolk Folk was initially a branch member of the English Folk and Song Society (EFDSS) which was founded by Cecil Sharp in 1911. The earliest reference found to the Suffolk District Branch, as it was known at the time, appears in the EFDSS handbook dated February 1941 although there can be no doubt that folk dance in Suffolk was thriving for many years before that. There is mention of the Norfolk and Norwich District in an earlier edition – March 1937 – but it could well be that Suffolk was an active member at that time and the Secretary had simply failed to send in a report. Further research is needed if anybody wants to dive deeper than the level required for this simple homage to Suffolk Folk.
The 1941 edition of the handbook records seven centres in Suffolk ranging from Exning to Woodbridge and it is clear that there was a lot happening at club level. The actual name ‘Suffolk Folk’ came about in 1995 when ‘districts’ were abolished by EFDSS and so Suffolk Folk became an independent organisation with its own constitution and the stated aims of publishing the magazine entitled Mardles and of organising an annual folk dance – the Playford Ball.
This is of course an over-simplification as the committee were involved in all sorts of memorable events, including the Felixstowe Folk Festival and the Snape Folk Festival to name just two.
A band of dedicated volunteers have kept Suffolk Folk and all the activities it supports going ever since. It is difficult to name names without missing out some important people, but it should be recorded somewhere that Graham Potter, Ann Potter and Patricia Woodgate were pivotal to Mardles and Suffolk Folk activities. They were tragically killed in a road accident whilst on holiday in Ireland in August 1993. Their loss to the Suffolk Folk Committee was immense; there is a moving obituary to them in the January 1994 edition of Mardles which tells of their great contribution to the world of Suffolk Folk. Graham in particular instigated Mardles as a magazine and worked tirelessly to edit, print and distribute it until his untimely death.
Despite this great blow, people rallied, thankfully the legacy wasn’t lost, with Michael Blandford, who became known by the nickname Mr Mardles, and Bill Johnston keeping the magazine in production; meanwhile others on the committee took over the admin that Graham had been doing.
They have been followed by an illustrious line of Editors, Chairmen and women, Treasurers, Secretaries and the many other the other people needed to publish sell and distribute the quarterly magazine which was sent out to the membership and made available in many venues around the county. It was produced to the highest standard, but it would be wrong to think that publishing Mardles was the only thing that Suffolk Folk was engaged in. The committee supported and organised workshops and projects in schools, created the annual Riverside Day, continued to organise the Playford Ball to name just some of the activities which kept the committee busy.
In 2000 Mardles switched from an A4 to A5 format and finally in November 2017 the last paper edition of the magazine was published. This was because the committee found itself unable to continue producing its flagship magazine, but it was not the end!
Suffolk Folk merged with the Norfolk Folk Association, a new steering group was formed and mardles.org came into being. This is essentially a web-based version of the printed magazine.
The name Suffolk Folk may no longer be in use, but everything it stood for remains right at the heart of the aims and aspirations of mardles.org.
Many, many thanks to all the volunteers over the years who established and kept this wonderful organisation going. Its values will last well into the 21st century and hopefully beyond.
Special mention must be made of John Halliwell who kept all the archive material safe for many years.
Jill Parson January 2020