A Brief History
In the late 1980s, Cecil Sharp House, the headquarters of the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS), was in a perilous position. EFDSS had accrued a huge deficit and the continuation of EFDSS and folk activities at the House was threatened. The Friends of Cecil Sharp House (FCSH) was created to assist the EFDSS by running the House, thereby ensuring its future as a centre of the folk arts.
However, it soon became apparent that the then EFDSS National Executive Committee was determined to sell Cecil Sharp House as the solution to its deficit, so the FCSH morphed into a campaigning society dedicated to opposing the sale. Within weeks, well over 1000 people had joined the Friends to secure the future of the House and the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library; and Colin Hume wrote the dance. ‘Save the House’, to raise funds for the Friends’ campaign.
For a number of years, the Friends supplied the volunteers who managed the House under the leadership of Brenda Godrich. Volunteers redecorated the House, helped run the shop, and took bookings. Pat Parr kept the books; Vic Godrich maintained the membership system and made it work, until Colin Hume created a new properly computerised system. FCSH personnel oversaw the finances and provided the house personnel for the various folk activities. The Friends raised money for the building and the Society.
Some of the fruits of its fund-raising activities can be seen in the bar, the café and the new curtains in Kennedy Hall, to name but a few of the FCSH contributions to the fabric of the House. It bore the full financial risk of launching initiatives including the New Year’s Eve dance, May Day and the family folk dance programme, all subsequently incorporated into the EFDSS programme. It also collected money to ensure that funds would be available to fight any further threat to close the building.
In recent years, the FCSH has focused its energies on dance to complement the management of EFDSS’ concentration on re-establishing its folk music programme in Cecil Sharp House. FCSH dances sought to showcase outstanding callers and bands to promote English social dance. For the past few years, our energies have been devoted mainly to a programme of dances and workshops for experienced English Country dancers. It has been a great pleasure to welcome people from well beyond the boundaries of Greater London back to Cecil Sharp House, and to share the continuing vitality of “Playford Past & Present.
Now that the future of the House is safe, the Friends of Cecil Sharp House decided to change its name in 2021 to Friends of English Dance. We continue our mission to promote the knowledge of and participation in English Country Dance.