Historic songs of South Downs

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The South Downs Society has launched a new project to bring back to life the historic songs of the South Downs and to teach them to a new generation.

Workshops are planned for Chichester and Lewes.

The project, which has been made possible thanks to a grant of £49,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will see hundreds of people across the South Downs area learning these beautiful, rousing and joyful songs, says social historian Chris Hare.

Folk trio, Emily And The Hares (Chris and Ann Hare and Emily Longhurst), will be running the workshops which are open to everyone and are completely free. At the end of the six free sessions, all participants will be presented with a CD of their singing.

Chris, who is leading the project for the South Downs Society, said: “Every song tells a unique story about the people, the countryside, and the customs of the South Downs in centuries gone by.

“They help us to learn about the lives of the people who lived and worked in the South Downs many years ago. There are love songs, drinking songs, songs about working on the Downs, and of riots caused by unemployment and hunger.

“Arthur Beckett, who was one of the founders of the South Downs Society in 1923, was a great collector of the songs of the area, and we’ll be learning many of the songs he noted down.

“Although we have found many songs from the South Downs, some, it is feared, are lost forever. Arthur Beckett, as he travelled around the Downs, noted down many beautiful and ancient songs. But in his book The Spirit of the Downs, he wrote that ‘some of the old songs I have met with are of a decidedly licentious and unwholesome character, and for that reason are better unrecorded.’”

The Chichester workshops will start on October 1 and will be on the first Saturday of the month through to March 2012. The Lewes workshops begin on October 15 and continue on the third Saturday of the month through to March. In addition, there will be free extra practice sessions every month at the Beechwood Hall Hotel in Worthing.

To book a place, or for further information, contact Chris Hare on 07794 600639, chris.hare@southdownssociety.org.uk.

The South Downs Society is a registered charity set up to conserve and enhance the beauty and amenities of the South Downs for the benefit of the public. It was established in 1923. It is the National Park Society for the South Downs.

The South Downs stretch for 100 miles between Eastbourne in East Sussex and Winchester in Hampshire.