Sussex Traditions, Past But Not Forgotten
by Mark Broad
Folklore is very often the kind of stuff that’s considered ‘everyday’ and commonplace until, suddenly, it’s no longer there!
Founded in 2015, Sussex Traditions is a charity dedicated to gathering and sharing the traditional culture of the county. The first stage involves collecting and archiving materials in a searchable database.
Project Manager Mark Broad explains that in its foundation project year, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, South Downs National Park and several other funding bodies, Sussex Traditions has focussed specifically on traditional music and song. “Several of the charity’s founders are recognised in that field and we’ve received some amazing contributions in the form of old recordings and songbooks.”
By ‘cultural heritage’ in this case, it is the legacy that gets passed on from person to person and down the ages, over generations – typically amongst small groups and communities. Sussex Traditions is collecting and preserving the shared everyday culture of ordinary people, past and present, so that future generations will be able to enjoy and appreciate its special Sussex character and history.
If you think about it, you probably have family or friends of older generations, who grew-up and have long lived around these parts – who’ll be able to tell you a thing or two about old Sussex. We’re looking to gather stories, songs and sayings and weave them into a ‘people and places’ map of the county, connecting the past with the present.
Mike Tristram, Chairman of the Charity’s Trustees and Advisors comments that in the future, youngsters who’ll never meet the older people of Sussex will be able to hear the voices of those who created our countryside and market towns and villages, and learn about their communities. The charity is calling on the skills of volunteers and professionals in Sussex to help collect and catalogue limited-life source materials. For example, early tapes or writings awaiting digitisation, or undocumented oral traditions still held in living memory. Such things might be described as folklore, folk arts, and oral, local, and community history. In fact, it’s very often the kind of stuff that’s considered ‘everyday’ and commonplace until, suddenly, it’s no longer there!
There already is a good deal of listening and reading material up on the website, but as you can imagine it’s some effort identifying, cataloguing and digitising all these assets. That’s just one of the areas in which we need more volunteers – people interested in getting involved and perhaps having some training in how it all works.
Looking ahead, projects will include gathering ‘local legends’, stories about particular Sussex places and people, and we’re going to find all we can to do with local food and drink, calendar customs, occupations, home life, crafts, sports, children’s games, dialect and so on.
In each case materials will be collected and organised, then made widely accessible. Partnerships are being developed with other cultural and heritage organisations and there are a number of community and schools projects underway.
It’s great to be able to take this kind of information into the county’s primary schools, sharing a love of Sussex with the young people who are growing up here.