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What are the musical traditions of East Anglia?

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Melodeons and More 2016 (new)         


East Anglian Dulcimers website (new)        


World Dulcimer Congress (new)         


Melodeon evening classes (updated)         


Percy West R.I.P.        







Email newsletter         


Volunteering Opportunities       








Older News         

News Archive (pre 2014)     



Visitors to Traditional Music Day 2015 taking their first steps on the melodeon (photo: Susan Bell)  



This page is updated regularly throughout the year, so do look back here, or alternatively, to receive our email newsletters (about four times a year),

please click here. You can unsubscribe at any time.



Latest news



 Melodeons and More 2016





In 2016 Melodeons and More will be on Saturday 19th March and is followed by one of our occasional Melodeon Maintenance workshops on Sunday 20th March.


Booking opens on Monday 14th December for Friends of EATMT, who have priority until Tuesday 12th January when booking opens to the general public.


If you wish to join the Friends of EATMT at the same time, in order to secure your first choice of classes and benefit from an extra discount, you can join at the same time and make one payment for everything. A slight restructuring of our ticket prices means that Friends now get an even better (cheaper!) deal, and there is a better (cheaper!) price for under-21s.


We have a wonderful line-up of brilliant and talented workshop tutors:


 John Spiers - Hazel Askew - Dave Townsend - Mel Biggs - Ollie King - Owen Woods - Matt Quinn - Steve Dumpleton - Paul Scourfield


Full details of the workshops, other daytime events and the evening concert are all on the Melodeons and More page of this website.




This year’s  Squeezebox Special  concert features

John Spiers, Hazel Askew, Steve Dumpleton, Dave

Townsend and new melodeon supergroup Boxtet

(Mel Biggs, Matt Quinn, Owen Woods & Ollie King)

in their world premiere!


Come along and spend an entertaining evening listening to

some superb English traditional music. A lovely relaxing

and inspiring end to a day if you’ve been concentrating

in the workshops, or just an enjoyable evening out if you’re

not a player yourself.

Doors open at 7.30pm for an 8pm kick-off. There’s a real

ale bar all evening and a CD stall open before the concert

and in the interval. Tickets can be bought in combination

with a day workshop for the best rates, but tickets are

also available separately. Prices remain the same as

in the last couple of years: they’re still £13.50 or £12.50

for Friends of EATMT. Why not bring your friends and

family for an evening of excellent music?




On the following day, Sunday 20th March 2016, there will be another of our occasional Melodeon Maintenance days. It's a day for melodeon players or anyone interested in the practical

skills needed to do simple repairs and learn more about the mechanics and tuning of these instruments. Some of the day will also be relevant to concertinas, and we can accommodate

a small number of concertina players too, although there will be no concertina-specific sessions.

It will be led by melodeon maker Rees Wesson (above, standing) who has run these days previously for us, aided and abetted by Steve Dumpleton.The aim is to help you identify

and evaluate problems, and learn some of the recommended methods for maintenance, repairs and tuning. There will be a mixture of demonstration and practical work covering:

bellows, pallets, springs, glue, tools, wax, valves, reeds and reed-blocks.

Click here for further information. The Melodeon Maintenance Day is now fully booked, although you may ask to go on a reserve list for any cancellations.



 Launch of East Anglian Dulcimers website


Thirty years of research are coming to fruition in a new website

devoted to the history of the dulcimer in East Anglia!


It is jam-packed full of photographs and fascinating details about

this iconic and distinctive instrument.


There are sections on the instruments themselves, with details

on the construction and decoration and further sections about

players and makers over the last 150 years or so. The players'

pages also link to sound recordings and other resources.


It will make a significant contribution to our knowledge about this

instrument in England and to our understanding of the social and

economic contexts in which this instrument and the music made

on it flourished.


Whether you're a musician yourself, or interested in local history,

woodworking or antiques, there's bound to be something on this

wonderful website that will interest you.


The site is at www.eastangliandulcimers.org.uk and went live in November 2015. Do look back regularly, as it's a developing resource with more information added all the time.




 Dulcimer World Congress





This amazing event took place in Malvern in Worcestershire,

in October 2015 and the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust

took a display of East Anglian made dulcimers and a

photographic exhibition which drew much interest and

provoked some interesting and fruitful discussions.


We also gave two talks - one to the Nonsuch Dulcimer Club

at their annual gathering on Sunday 25th October, and one

to a more international audience at the World Dulcimer Congress

on Tuesday 27th October, while Richard Blake followed up on

the Thursday with further ideas on the development of the

dulcimer in Norfolk.


Nonsuch Dulcimer Club


Dulcimer World Congress




Photograph left courtesy of the WDC.
















 Melodeon evening classes


This Autumn we have run two levels of classes: Improvers, taught by Katie Howson and Beginners, taught by Ron Ross.


Classes run on a Tuesday night (7.30-9pm) in Stowmarket and the dates for next term are 8th & 22nd March, 5th & 19th April.


There are spaces available (and hire instruments) for Beginners, so now's your chance to get started if you've been meaning to do it and haven't yet got round to it! There may be spaces in the Improvers class, but priority is given to people who attended last term. Please ring or email before booking for this class if you haven't been before.


Classes cost £48 per term (a series of four classes, at fortnightly intervals) and are taught using a D/G melodeon. The cost includes learning resources and email support.


Please give us a ring on 01449 771090 or email us if you're interested.




 Percy West R.I.P.



We're very sad indeed to report the news that Percy West, stepdancer extraordinaire, died after some months' illness

on Saturday 25th July 2015 at home near Diss.


Percy was a great character, his cheeky nature expressed through his exuberant and energetic stepping style which

has inspired many younger dancers.


Thanks to Susan Bell for this wonderful photo which really captures Percy's style.


Below is the piece which we wrote for Percy's funeral, which took place in Diss on Thursday 6th August.

John Howson writes:

Almost forty years ago I was with the great melodeon player and stepdancer, Font Whatling, in Mendlesham Fleece.

We were sharing a packet of small cigars (as we often did) with our pints. Our conversation centred around the local

music and stepdancers and then the door opened and a slim, well-dressed man walked in. He acknowledged Font

and went to the bar. Font leaned over to me and said 'That’s Percy West, now that’s who you ought to see dance!'


It was actually quite a few years before I did see Percy dance - but what a dancer! We became friends and he told me about his family. I then discovered the recordings made by Peter Kennedy in 1956 at Friday Bridge, Wisbech of Percy’s father Frank Connors introducing his family tradition, and included in those recordings was a 13 year old Percy stepping to his father playing mouthorgan.


It sounded like a stunning performance and over the last twenty years I have seen many stunning performances from Percy. Whether it be at our Stepdance Day in Worlingworth or our annual Traditional Music Day in Stowmarket where the closing dance at the Stepdance Special always had to go to Percy, simply because nobody else could follow him.

Over the years we had many invitations to weekends away at festivals and clubs all over the country, but Percy was happy in the location he knew. I would have loved to have taken him to Dartmoor Festival to meet up with the Orchard family but it was too far. Fortunately he did of course eventually meet up with the great stepdancer Tom Orchard at our Traditional Music Day in Stowmarket and within minutes they had established that they were related.


But a few years ago, Percy and Doreen did agree to come for a weekend away in central London for the Keith Summers Festival. Percy was amazed that the welcoming audience knew about him and, as ever, he stunned them with his stepping. We all stayed in a posh hotel, paid for by the festival, but Percy confided in me that he had had little sleep in such an environment. What was probably the highlight of the whole weekend was when Steve Knights, who was driving the minibus for us, took us on a trip around the sights of London and we arrived, with immaculate timing, at the front of a traffic queue at Buckingham Palace just in time to see the Changing of the Guard!


But it was in the pub where Percy really shone, not just as a dancer but also as a raconteur. He was always the centre of the party, always with a quip and a joke particularly after a few bottles of his favourite tipple – Mann’s Brown.


Katie Howson adds:


As a musician who has played for many stepdancers, Percy was just the most exciting dancer to play for, however brief the burst of dancing was, that didn’t matter. The joy and humour of his dancing made playing for him the highlight of many, many occasions. I feel deeply privileged to have known him and to have had those wonderful experiences in such good company.


He has entertained and inspired many people and I really hope some of the dancers coming through now pick up Percy’s cheery and cheeky style as well as his steps.


There’ll be many a glass raised in Percy’s memory wherever steppers are gathered in future years.


Cheers, Percy.



 Email newsletter


In 2015 we went all digital with a whizzy new email newsletter, which we hope will keep you better informed about events and projects - do sign up and keep in the loop!


We send it out about four times a year to let you know what is going on at EATMT and alert you to interesting information and resources.


To receive our newsletter, all you've got to do is click here. You can forward it to your friends too.


If you'd like to be a bit more involved, or support us further, you might like to consider becoming a Friend of EATMT. Details are on our membership page.



 Volunteering Opportunities



Last year we offered training sessions for people who would like to take our jig dolls out to various community event and show others how to operate them. We usually have several dates over the summer when we are invited to bring the jig dolls along to let members of the public have a go, so we need people willing and able to do this, plus a musician or two. So far we've got about half-a-dozen people interested, but there's room for more, so get in touch if you're interested and we can arrange some more training sessions.


We’re always pleased to welcome new people to the friendly and hard-working team of volunteers who help us out in a wide variety of ways. Volunteers help with stewarding and helping at events, checking tickets, making refreshments, putting up signs, taking photographs, helping with equipment and transport and with occasional office-based tasks. Please email us or give us a ring on 01449 771090 if you would like to help out in any way. Next opportunities are to help out at Melodeons and More on 19th March 2016. Do get in touch!


We'd also like to hear from anyone with First Aid qualifications who might be prepared to help out occasionally at our events.




Above and centre: Jig dolls in action with volunteers and public; right: volunteers in action at Traditional Music Day.




Back to Top     



Older News


Traditional Music Day 2015         


Stepdance Day 2015       


Melodeon Makers 2014       


Songs from King's Lynn       


The Full English       


Blaxhall Ship CD & film      


New Norfolk Dulcimers       






 Traditional Music Day 2015




We had some wonderful singers bringing a taste of their own localities to the 14th

annual Traditional Music Day on Saturday 5th September: Kevin & Ellen Mitchell

from Derry and Glasgow and Peter & Barbara Snape from Lancashire plus young

musicians Darren Breslin, Orlaith & Brogan McAuliffe, all of whom are All-Ireland

champions. Keeping up the Home Front was Proper English with a rake of good

tunes for the ceilidh called by the lovely Barry Goodman. We were pleased to

welcome back the talented and exuberant young melodeon player and singer 

Matt Quinn from Sussex. Matt generously stepped up late in the day to replace

original guest Ollie King, who was offered a fabulous opportunity in the West End

for the Autumn. Last but not least we had the inimitable Les Barker, poet, comic

genius who had his audiences rolling in the aisles with laughter.

This event was about so much more than the main guests though, with talks and photograph exhibitions, themed song events, tune sessions, opportunities to have a go at stepdancing,

playing instruments, and afternoon ceilidh, jig dolls stories and crafts for children ... and all in the wonderful setting of the Museum of East Anglian Life in the centre of Stowmarket. 


There were about thirty different events taking place around the museum site during the day, and in the evening there's just the one acoustic concert in the Tithe Barn, featuring all the main



Full details of the event are on our Traditional Music Day page.


in 2016, Traditional Music Day will be on Saturday 3rd September.




 Lenny Whiting wins stepdance double (2015)



On Sunday 26th July, 72 year old Lenny Whiting from Stradbroke (left, receiving one of his

2015 trophies from judge Marilyn Monk) pulled off a remarkable feat of winning both of the

annual dancing competitions held at the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust’s Stepdance

Day at Worlingworth Swan. Over two hundred people gathered to see some of the best

stepdancers in the region and more than twenty people took part in the two competitions

held during the day, with a further number of people joining in a beginners’ workshop at

the start of the event.


The aim of the first competition – the Steve Monk Memorial Stepdance Championship,

held for the last 16 years in memory of Framlingham stepdancer and singer Steve

Monk – is to encourage anyone and everyone to have a go. Participants ranged in

age from five upwards, including thirteen year old Catrin Pena who has been dancing

since she was five, and Ella Beal aged sixteen, a previous winner. The Font Whatling

Traditional Stepdance competition commemorates Font Whatling, a well-known musician

and stepdancer across Suffolk and further afield, who played regularly in the Worlingworth

Swan and is for more experienced dancers, with the aim of to keeping the local traditional

style alive and in good shape.


Lenny has previously won both competitions, but never both in the same year! 17 year old

Dominic Smith from Wingfield came second in both competitions, so Lenny has some stiff

competition in future years!




 Melodeon Makers 2014


Autumn 2014 saw the fiftieth melodeon built in Stowmarket, on the fifth Melodeon Makers course run by EATMT in partnership with Emmanuel Pariselle from Poitiers. Emmanuel is a designer of instruments and the only person brave enough to take on a group of ten people for a week, who each went home with a one-row melodeon at the end of the course. His original inspiration was an early twentieth century “Monarch” melodeon, of the style which was played by so many traditional musicians in East Anglia, which is why we first jumped at the chance to host this course in 2007.

Emmanuel prepares a lot of the parts in advance, including all the wood parts - walnut for this year’s batch - and the other components such as the bellows and reeds come from Castelfidardo,

a town in Italy where there are many small workshops and factories specialising in parts for melodeons, concertinas and accordions. During the course, the wood and mechanical parts are assembled and finished and the reeds are tuned.

The course had a rather dramatic start, as Emmanuel realised he had left some parts at home and they had to be flown with some urgency into Stansted! There were loud cheers when the parcel eventually arrived and all went well from there on, with tuner Theo Gibb arriving to get them all sounding good as well as looking beautiful! The right-hand photograph below shows the staff of John Howson, Emmanuel Pariselle, Theo Gibb and Katie Howson with the ten instruments made this year. We were aided and abetted by the most marvellous team of volunteers, whose help and support was much appreciated by the participants.


Click here to read more and for more photographs from the 2014 event.



Currently EATMT has no definite plans to run another one-row making course. However, there is good news if you are interested in making a melodeon with more buttons!  In 2016, Emmanuel is leading a two-and-a-half row building course (fully subscribed) and the possibility of a one-row building week, both at Halsway Manor in Somerset. Halsway is a residential centre for the folk arts, currently undergoing exciting developments, and a great place to spend a week, although of course, not as lovely as Suffolk!! There is also the possibility of a one-row building week in the future at this venue. If you're interested in these courses, contact Gavin Davenport at Halsway Manor.


News just in (December 2015): Emmanuel is also running his annual workshop in France from 5-13 July 2016. Instrument specification: two-and-a half rows, two voices, fourteen basses. Price: 2200€ including accommodation and food, straps and gig bag. A deposit of 800€ must be paid to reserve a place. Details here (in French) or contact Emmanuel directly (in English) by email.




 Songs from King's Lynn


In October 2014, there was a fascinating day for those interested in traditional song, at Marriot’s Warehouse on the historic quayside in King’s Lynn at the invitation of Norfolk singer and musician Alan Helsdon. It was the first easterly meeting of the Traditional Song Forum, a national organisation which brings together people interested in the research, collecting and performance of traditional song. TSF meets three times a year at locations around the UK and each meeting has a programme of talks open to non-members.


The morning started with a round-up of Traditional Song Forum members’ research projects, followed by presentations by Alan Helsdon and Liz James on Ralph Vaughan Williams’ collecting in 1905/6 in King’s Lynn. After lunch there were tunes from Chris Holderness and Richard Blake - playing a dulcimer found recently in King's Lynn (below, second right) - and a walk to the Fishing Museum in True’s Yard, (below, right) where singer Joe Anderson used to live, before Katie Howson's talk on the singing fishermen of the 1950s and 60s with some of the newly rediscovered recordings to listen to, and finally some reflections on Norfolk singer Sam Larner from the renowned folklorist and collector Doc Rowe. After a brief gasp of fresh air and some very good fish and chips, it was back to Marriot's Warehouse for an evening of local songs, music and stories from Damien Barber, Katie & John Howson and Chris Holderness and Richard Blake.





1950s and 60s songs and singers


EATMT has worked with Alan and fellow singers and researchers Jill Bennett and Liz James for a number of years on the King’s Lynn material, since our first North End Voices project in 2005.
Alan led the “Northenders” schools project for EATMT in 2007. On the 2005 project, the song tutor was Chris Coe, and together we looked at some of the songs collected in the mid twentieth
century, as well as the earlier (and better-known) items collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1905/6. In True’s Yard museum was a transcript of recordings made with fishermen in the 1960s by Mike Herring, but search as we could, neither EATMT nor Liz James and her colleagues in the King’s Lynn museums could find the actual recordings. Then, amazingly, Chris Coe’s husband,
Johnny Adams, a respected sound engineer based in Yorkshire, commented that he had been given some tape recordings of singers from King’s Lynn ... and ... they turned out to be none other than Mike Herring’s tapes of “Bussle” Smith (above, left) and “Slinger” Woods for which we had the transcript! This set us off on a quest to find out more, and we presented our findings and played some of the recordings at the TSF day. The recordings are now once more housed in True’s Yard museum, alongside the transcripts.

It was great to actually hear “Bussle” Smith’s rumbustuous rendition of the song best known as Dogger Bank, which was a favourite amongst King’s Lynn fishermen in the mid twentieth century,
and we are now sure that he was the same George Smith who sang on a BBC recording made in the Tilden Smith pub in 1955. Second left above is Charlie Fysh (and his wife) who sang on a BBC radio programme made by John Seymour in the 1950s - sadly no recordings of this have yet been found, but a detailed and lively newspaper report really gave a good flavour of his singing. The songs collected in King’s Lynn, together with oral history interviews and publications provide us with a unique opportunity to ponder the differences in repertoire between Vaughan Williams’ findings in 1905 and half a century later, when the old fishing community had begun to break up due to economic and social changes.

The 2014 research has now been added as Appendix 3 and 4 on the North End Voices research page.

Click here to visit the Traditional Song Forum website.




 The Full English




This magnificent project, run by the English Folk Dance and Song Society was completed in late 2014: the online archive has thousands of songs, dances, stories and tunes to be viewed at the touch of a button - or two!  The year-long project included community events and eighteen schools projects across the UK; the latter culminated in a wonderful day at Birmingham Town Hall in June, with varied and moving performances from children aged 4-18. Thanks to the EFDSS and photographer Roswitha Chesher for these photos of very different takes on molly dancing, from our two local projects in Cambridgeshire, led by tutors including Mary Humphreys and Katie Howson.


Mary worked in a primary school with Debs Newbold, teaching traditional songs, rhymes, dances and games, based around a true story. Katie worked with Kerry Fletcher, Paul Scourfield and Amy Holly with a brilliant group of 18 year old dance and music students on a piece involving both traditional and contemporary dance, based around the ballad Lucy Wan. The students learned about molly, step and broom dancing, using tunes from the region. The molly dance was used to represent the community, with contemporary moves expressing the breaking of social mores through incest and finally murder, from the song lyrics. Further information about this project is on the Education page.


Visit the EFDSS website to browse the Full English collection. The website also contains fantastic resource packs for teachers to use, developed through the Full English project.



 Blaxhall Ship CD & film available





The Ship Inn in Blaxhall, near Snape on the Suffolk coast, has a special place in traditional music in England. This month, some iconic recordings from the 1950s, made by folk-song collector Peter Kennedy, have been made available once more on the Topic label’s latest ‘Voice of the People’ CD series. ‘The Barley Mow’ includes the film made in 1955 as well as audio recordings of Cyril Poacher, Jim Baldry, Jumbo Brightwell, Bob Scarce, Geoff Ling and others, finishing with Jack French singing the title song.


Click here to read a recent article about the Blaxhall Ship.

'The Barley Mow' CD and film is available through our online shop or by ringing Veteran Mail Order on 01449 673695.







 New Norfolk Dulcimers 


Many of you will already know of Norfolk’s tradition of dulcimer playing, with legendary names such as Billy Bennington and Billy Cooper. EATMT has been researching the lesser known players of our region and also the dulcimer makers, such as Mark Widdows from Norwich and James Caston from Forncett St Peter. Now the name of Richard Blake has been added to that list.


Richard Blake has lived in Melton Constable for many years, and has finally combined his skills of playing the dulcimer and cabinet-making to design a new Norfolk-style dulcimer which is now being produced professionally at Marcus Ashby’s workshop in Norwich. Here is Richard’s story:




‘Sometime last year, my brother, who is much more knowledgeable with computers than I am, suggested that he could turn the measurements that I had made, some ten years ago, of the dulcimer at Gressenhall Museum, into full size working plans that could be used by any cabinet maker. At about the same time I found Paul Hasluck's 'Violins and Other Stringed Instruments' * (published 1907) on the internet, this gave an accurate description of how dulcimers used to be made. Putting the measurements that I had made together with Hasluck's description we were able to take the plans to Marcus Ashby in Norwich who had the machinery to make the first prototype. This looked good and, when strung and tuned, played well. Most importantly it sounds like the real thing! Satisfied that the whole thing works, I have had the first batch of six made, which I am now fitting with strings and chessman bridges. I insist on tuning them the 'Norfolk' way: if, like me, you wish to play like Billy Bennington or Billy Cooper*, then you really do need those chromatic notes that the old tuning provides. As well as being essential for the two Billys' repertoire or the music from the Watson* manuscript, it means that the rare classical dulcimer repertoire is also playable. The dulcimers cost £700 each with an extra £50 for a soft case. I will also supply cane beaters in the traditional style.’

It would be great to see more people playing the wonderful local style of dulcimer, and the production of this new model makes that more possible! The dulcimers can be obtained from Richard at 26, Church Lane, Hindolveston, Dereham, Norfolk NR20 5BT, or talk to him on 01363 860100 or 07717 671946 or email at blakedulcimist@gmail.com


For further information about dulcimers in East Anglia, click here.




*Further information on sources referred to above:

Paul Hasluck's 'Violins and Other Stringed Instruments’ - www.wkfinetools.com in the ‘Masters Library’ section.

Billy Bennington - click here for a biography and here for details of the CD The Barford Angel.

Billy Cooper - click here for a biography and here for details of the CD English Country Music.

George Watson (1860-1944) lived in Skeyton near North Walsham. 80 tunes from his hand-written tune book are in ABC format in the manuscript room at www.village-music-project.org.uk If you would prefer to see these tunes in conventional format, Norfolk researcher Alan Helsdon will send you a copy at a very reasonable price.








Back to Latest News


News Archive (pre 2014)




Do you like what we do?
Now would be a really good time to show your support and join the Friends of EATMT.


We’d like to encourage everyone who appreciates the work we do - whether it be this website, the events, the research and publications, the schools

and community projects, the exhibitions, the workshops and classes ... to join the Friends of EATMT and support our work into the future.

If you sing or listen to a local song, play or hear a local tune, dance or watch or stepdancing, at least part of that is probably down to the work of EATMT, which has been working to keep our local traditions alive and kicking into the twenty first century. If you receive a printed copy or an email version of this newsletter, it’s down to the hard work of our part-time staff and volunteers - and the same goes if you are reading this on the website now!

We are a small organisation but with a serious reputation for delivering professional projects and “punching above our weight”. We became a registered charity in 2000 and are governed by a board of trustees. Membership starts at £15 per year. Donations are always very welcome, a Gift Aid declaration helps it go even further, and we also welcome longer-term enquiries about legacies etc.

Please visit our
membership page to download a form. Thank you.



This page is updated regularly, and older news items are now archived on a separate webpage - click here.


Page last updated 03 February 2016



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What are the musical traditions of East Anglia?

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