Alex Helm Indexes

Ref: MS 457

Title: Alex Helm Indexes

Scope: A set of indexes created by Alex Helm, listing sources of folk plays, morris dancing and disguising throughout the British Isles

Dates: c.1960
Level: Fonds
Extent: 10 volumes
Name of creators: Alex Helm

Administrative / biographical history:
The collection consists of ten volumes of index slips, divided into seven for mumming plays, one for disguising and two for morris.

In the 1950s, Alex Helm was living in Cheshire and a member of the EFDSS Manchester District, where he was an active dancer and caller within the district. It is uncertain whether he also danced with the Manchester Morris Men (MMM), but would have known the morris men, as most were also EDFSS members. Members of MMM were actively researching and reviving the North-west clog morris dances, and Alex was also “taking part in investigations into the North-western Morris”1.

Other people were investigating and indexing other regional folk customs – for example, “Norman Peacock maintained an index of sword dances, and Chris Cawte a card index of folk customs”2. By the late 1950s, Helm led and oversaw an indexing project, bringing many of these together in a set of linked volumes.

Enquiries have failed to identify how or when a copy of the Helm Indexes came into the possession of the MMM, but it may be that they came via Bernard Bentley, a fellow EFDSS member, folk dance caller and morris man, who was actively researching the NW morris. Some time before 19703, this copy of the Helm Indexes was placed in the MMM Archives, to join the research notes, dance notations, team costumes, photographs, etc. of the North-west morris.

The Indexes were donated to the Special Collections Department at the University of Sheffield Library in 2015 by the Manchester Morris Men.

[Description compiled by Keith Ashman of the Manchester Morris Men]

  • Source: By donation in 2015
  • System of arrangement: As received
  • Subjects: Folk Drama; Mumming; Morris Dance
  • Names: Helm, Alex, 1920-1970
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Copyright: University College London
  • Finding aids: Listed

1 quote from Sara Jackson, librarian of the EFDSS, at the time
2 Eddie Cass, extract from his ‘Presidential Address to The Folklore Society, 28/3/2010’
3 none of the current MMM members has any knowledge of the Indexes being received or used since 1970