We are always delighted to receive reports about unusual libraries or information repositories in our region. Here Marie Weinel, Stock Manager at Bath and North East Somerset Libraries, reports on a ‘true gem’ to be found in Somerset.
A true gem lies in the beautiful Quantock Hills: Halsway Manor, a national centre for folk arts and home to the Kennedy Grant Folk Library. Halsway Manor itself dates back over 600 years and it has been devoted to its present use as a folk centre since 1965. The centre, near Crowcombe, Somerset, has therefore been celebrating its Golden Jubilee throughout 2015. Cynthia Sartin who, with her husband Bonny, has been Librarian at the Kennedy Grant Library since 1999, kindly offered to show me round the centre. I couldn’t have seen the manor to better advantage than in the warm glow of this splendid autumn afternoon.
Halsway has housed a folk library since 1965; originally this was named after Margaret Grant of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. This facility was given a major boost in 2006 when renowned folklorist Peter Kennedy gifted a bequest of some 11,000 items from his extensive private collections. In agreement with the Kennedy family, the Library was henceforth renamed the Kennedy Grant Library.
Fittingly for a centre which seeks to represent folk arts in all forms – music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore, arts and crafts – the Library’s holdings cover many different media types: books, periodicals, artefacts, photographs, manuscripts, records, cassettes, CDs, videos and DVDs. It is Halsway’s aim to make these treasures available to everyone and, to this end, Cynthia and her team of volunteer librarians have worked tirelessly to electronically catalogue the Library’s stock. With over 10,000 catalogued items to date, the Kennedy Grant Library is the biggest dedicated folk library in the UK and thriving. Donations are coming in to the centre faster than Cynthia and her colleagues can add them to stock!
Kennedy Grant Folk Library
Halsway has long been run on the goodwill and enthusiasm of its many dedicated volunteers. As part of its fiftieth anniversary celebrations, the centre launched an ambitious oral history project: ‘Telling Tales’. The aim of this scheme is to document and celebrate fifty years of folk arts at Halsway Manor through the stories, recollections and memorabilia of those who have been involved with the centre from its early days.
After fifty years, with so much history behind it, what does the future hold for Halsway? Hopefully many new and exciting ventures: a £4 million pound phased development project, ‘Our Future’, has been unveiled, which would see the construction of a woodland activity centre, a new performance space, upgraded accommodation and the conservation and repair of the Grade II listed manor house. These much needed developments would enable the centre to expand its highly successful residential courses and programmes of performance.
At this exciting juncture in the centre’s history, Halsway Manor and the Kennedy Grant Library are eager to recruit more volunteers to help the centre move forward into its next fifty years. Anyone interested in getting involved with the Library, ‘Telling Tales’ or any other aspect of the centre is warmly encouraged to contact the Halsway on tel. 01984 618274 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visitors too are always very welcome. My thanks to Cynthia for a most enjoyable introduction to this quite remarkable place.