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Laurel Swift

Performer, workshop leader and composer. Laurel is the fiddle player with The Gloworms and the double bass player with Jackie Oates' band and with Gadarene. She is the founder and choreographer of Morris Offspring and also dances step clog with Pat Tracey's team. Artistic Director of Shooting Roots, who run creative folk arts projects for and by young people, Laurel also runs classes in London. She has been awarded two opportunities to showcase compositions with Distil: Pocket Garden (2007) and London Haven (2008).

Laurel Swift


It reminded me what good material the folk arts are for working with kids. I thought I was clear at the outset as to what the day was about, but it became less clear as we went on. I thought we’d try and answer the two questions we were sent in advance but we didn't even talk about them. Sometimes I felt we were expected to make links that we had already been given. Looking back, it seemed a bit like I had been presented as 'source material' for the real artists to make something from. Found everything a bit too open-ended. I was often not quite sure what we were expected to be doing; it was a little too open to make me feel comfortable. The use of language would have made it clearer – maybe too much arts speak was used.

I liked the use of the box at the end of the day – reminded me that a few simple props are good workshop tools. I liked the idea of the letter writing exercise, but didn't take it seriously because no-one was going to read it. Would have preferred it as a format for feedback - anonymous or not.

It was a very interesting group of people – would have been nice to find out more about what they do, although that wasn't the point of the day so it's also good that we didn't. I saw how they all fit in, but not sure how valuable it was bringing that many people together and keeping them in one group all day. It wasn't an appropriate forum for debate and discussion.

I wanted to try out different steps and rhythms to the Phakama drumming, but it became a big jam because everybody else was equally unsure about what to do, so just joined in. I had wanted to spend more time exploring how different Morris steps / rhythms could link to the drumming and then try vice versa (Morris Tunes to African dancing). If I hadn’t been so pushy this return exchange wouldn’t have happened.
There is no harm in gathering people, but I felt people would have been more likely to give something if it had felt more focused. Our small group combination was hard going. We needed more specifically defined tasks. We spent most of the time trying to work out what we were expected to do. There were many groups and it was a shame to have only one sharing moment.

I felt MN story came backwards – i.e. detail filled in at the end of the day. I knew the story, but sometimes names were thrown in at random – Cecil Sharp, Bampton Morris - assuming everyone would know them and it made me feel uncomfortable because I felt most people wouldn't.

The session on archives seemed random at the time, but on reflection I realise it's because the project is about bringing an archive to life (?).

The day was obviously about the project, but wasn’t sure how what we were doing fitted in. I liked what the Brueghel group did, as an example of what a school might do for performance; it felt as if they had a different brief to us.

I liked the game where everyone put themselves on the continuum across the room; I think the reasons would have been interesting to record.

That said, I am keen to see how it develops, and to be involved with offering kids opportunities to explore folk arts.