The generosity of Sheffield alumni through the Alumni Fund has brought some welcome additions to the Department of Music in the shape of three melodeons, three mandolins, three concertinas and an octave mandola. They have already enjoyed their first “outing” with a hands-on workshop experience for members of the TUOS Folk group.

The department has developed a high and rising profile as a nationally recognised centre for academic expertise relating to English folk music, leading to increased interest in the genre among students. This has been clearest in the (now mainly student-run) TUOS Folk, a fluid group, of around 20 students, established in 2012, that has weekly sessions and workshops for students from across the University to learn and develop their repertoire, and work with professional performers from within and beyond the music staff.

Dr Simon Keegan-Phipps remarked “The enthusiasm among the students as they explored the new instruments was palpable: a number of them are already expressing an interest in developing their skills as mandolin and squeezebox players. Also important is that the TUOS Folk group meets in the public surroundings of the Bath Hotel, and plans are already in place for public performances later in the year: having a full range of specialist instruments – including less commonly-heard instruments such as the melodeon – represented in these contexts provides an excellent opportunity for interested members of the public to discover and experience the Department’s specialisms in the area of English and British folk music traditions.”

In light of the new purchases, and to consolidate the Department’s building reputation as a centre for excellence in folk music, plans are now in place for a new module in British Folk Music Performance, through which students will be able to hone and broaden their skills as session participants. The increased access to specialist instruments enabled by the Alumni Fund Award will enable more people to take part in that module, and strengthen folk music performance within the Department, the University and beyond.