Cork Folklore Project

The Cork Folklore Project

The Cork Folklore Project

The Challenge

What does responsible, engaged cultural heritage stewardship look like? What can tradition and oral history archives contribute to the world of research and the ‘real world’? Whose histories do we record, and for whom? And how do celebration, creativity and slow, critical engagement come together in a cultural heritage context? As a community-based centre for oral testimony, the Cork Folklore Project addresses these questions and more in its wideranging practice.

The CFP was initiated by the Department of Folklore and Ethnology, UCC, in 1996. It was developed with community partners with a view to cultivating a sustainable model of cultural research in and of the locality. CFP investigates and documents the everyday of Cork in the past and present, through the work of largely non-academic researchers, generating an audio archive for the use of all. Its mode of enquiry is a model of slow engagement with the richness of vernacular life, on the multiple levels of qualitative enquiry,documentation, reciprocity and social inclusion.

The Research

The collection: Over twenty years of audio interviewing has yielded a collection of over 700 interviews with significant time-depth, covering many aspects of everyday and  extra-ordinary life in the city and surrounds.

The process: Our project themes and interviewee nominations reflect the interests of community partners, researchers and volunteers. Our interviewing style is slow and gentle: open to the unexpected, to the positive and the negative, and to what matters to contributors and partners. 

The relationships: We serve as a research and cultural resource, but also, when possible, as an advisor and facilitator for all kinds of groups who wish to bring oral history practice into their artistic, community, local and social inclusion activities. 

‘Having a copy of the recording he made is  the greatest gift that anyone has given me’

The Impact

Our archive

This community and research resource of memory, talk and performance abounds with accounts of work and play, locality and migration, and tradition and change. It provides a wealth of rich material for enjoyment and reflection, for use in thinking about place, cultural resilience and social sustainability, as well as for communities of interest, individuals and creative practice. 

All of this is archived, safeguarded, curated and disseminated, and made available to the community at large, researchers, advocates and practitioners of all shapes and sizes through our publications, online catalogue and memory map, listening events and community-based sound archive.

Our practice

Over 140 researchers have trained and worked with us, developing the skills of listening and cultural heritage curatorship, and rising to the challenge of exploring testimony and memory through attentive human encounters.

We are a member of the community; a resource, a facilitator and a challenger of expectations. In this way, we serve as a model of cultural documentation and engaged research, of celebration and interrogation of the vernacular in a long-term community-university collaboration. 

It is a central part of our practice to disseminate and celebrate the rich material generously shared by interviewees, in open and creative ways. Our Outreach Hub allows us to have a public presence, and hosts our exhibitions. Regular memory events welcome the public to a shared listening experience, where the audience also contributes to the
storytelling. Children’s and adult workshops present our materials in a creative or playful context. Our annual journal, The Archive, shares the work of our researchers and contributors for free. Our online memory map provides a curated window onto our material, for locals new and old, and for listeners worldwide. The on-going online publication of our audio archive catalogue serves to facilitate an understanding of our collections and our practice, and to promote research access to the content.

Students and researchers of all ages and stages find both research material and a model of a living archive in their contact with us. Collaborations with a wide range of community groups, bodies such as the HSE and Cork City Play Forum, and with individuals lead to linkages that deepen with time. 

We are a model of long-term, slow-burning
cumulative impact through practice, as well as being proof of concept for a collaborative, engaged research project that supports meaningful cultural work and social inclusion in ways that flower and burgeon with the passage of time. In the words of Cork singer-songwriter, John Spillane, ‘Fair play to the Cork Folklore Project!’
Sharing Talk

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“You can only imagine how happy I was to review your package here on the North Shore of Boston. At first I burst into tears to hear my Dad’s sweet, lyrical tenor voice after all these months since he passed. But then those tears turned to laughter to hear the stories of old, not to mention some of which I was the protagonist … Having a copy of the recording he made is the greatest gift that anyone has given me.”

– Issac Chute, son of interviewee John Chute, 2017

College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences

Coláiste na nEalaíon, an Léinn Cheiltigh agus na nEolaíochtaí Sóisialta

College Office, Room G31 ,Ground Floor, Block B, O'Rahilly Building, UCC