For the most part, folk arts in this instance means any creative activity that the participants would describe as folk; music, dance, song, poetry, storytelling and mumming will most likely form the bulk of the material for this project, but there may be others that we didn’t know were using digital tools and resources. Some people may describe these activities as ‘intangible heritage’ but we prefer ‘folk arts’ as it is clear enough for anyone to understand, but broad enough to include things we haven’t thought of yet!
We also recognise that some of the activities that we consider to be folk arts might be called something else by the people involved – for instance, Irish traditional music. However, we have opted to “keep it simple” by using “folk” as an umbrella term. And the conflation of these terms for ease of labelling already happen in England’s cultural landscape… Irish traditional music acts, for instance, have been a mainstay of England’s folk festivals for several decades.
Ultimately, we understand the fluidity and subjectivity of the concept of “folk”. Again, this is why folk festivals are important – they are events at which a large number of people gather with (presumably) some shared understanding of what the term might include.
If it helps, Simon has recently defined folk music for an encyclopaedia as:
A musical genre perceived by participants, audiences or commentators to be historically rooted (in repertory, aesthetic or connotation), often connected to a specific geographical area, and fundamentally vernacular in its origins. …
… but we know that’s only the start of it!