Songs project to keep Sussex heritage alive

Emily and the Hares (Emily Longhurst, Chris Hare and Ann Feloy) will run the South Downs Songs Project.
Emily and the Hares (Emily Longhurst, Chris Hare and Ann Feloy) will run the South Downs Songs Project.

SONGS of love, war and humour will feature in a project to get people from this region reconnecting with the lost culture of the South Downs.

The South Downs Songs Project is being run by the South Downs Society and will, over the next two years, offer hundreds of people living in or near the South Downs an opportunity to learn the songs of ordinary people from days gone by.

The project is being managed by Chris Hare, his wife Ann Feloy and Emily Longhurst. They will host several practice sessions at Worthing under the guise of their singing group Emily and the Hares.

Chris is a professional historian, with a specialist knowledge of the South Downs. He has been singing the songs for more than 30 years and in recent years has been joined by Ann and Emily.

Chris said: “We cannot recreate the past nor wish back things that will never return, but we are able to keep alive one facet of our South Downs heritage – the traditional songs.

“Thanks to Victorian and Edwardian collectors of folk song, such as John and Lucy Broadwood, Michael Blann, and Arthur Beckett (founding President of the Society of Sussex Downsmen), many songs that would otherwise have been lost survive for us to enjoy today.

“Most important of all, we have the Copper family of Rottingdean, who alone among the South Down families kept alive a singing tradition that remained unbroken, even when the family lost all ties with a rural way of life that had once seemed so secure.”

The workshops start next month and run through to March.

All the courses are free, thanks to £49,800 funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Chris said: “We hope to create a balance in each workshop between men and women and people of different age groups.

“Everybody is welcome and nobody should think they need any background or experience in folk singing, in fact, coming to these songs fresh and without preconceived ideas is a positive thing and to be encouraged.”

The practice sessions in Worthing will all be held on Saturdays, at the Beechwood Hall Hotel, from 10.30am to 4.30pm. They are on October 6, October 27, December 8, January 5, February 2 and March 2.

For more details about the South Downs Songs project, email or phone 07794 600639.