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Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic Finds Permanent Home in Todmorden

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Local facilitator and folklore enthusiast, Holly Elsdon, will open the Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic on 21st May 2022, adding to the former printworks', on Halifax Road, a new lease of life, as a vibrant space for exhibitions, workshops, storytelling and conferences, placing Todmorden firmly on the map as a northern hub for folklore exploration and research.

The Centre is grateful to Saker-Bakery and Tea Rooms, who refurbished the ground floor and are sharing their exhibition and event space. This exciting collaboration creates a hub for storytellers, writers, researchers, artists and people of all ages with interest in folklore and a desire to learn, share skills, host events or exhibit their work.

It provides a space to engage families with folklore and its connection to the local landscape via art, drama, craft, storytelling, dance, music and land skills. The library and offices have been beautifully refurbished by Holly and a team of local volunteers.

The Centre has become the official home of two libraries: Mythstories and The Society for Storytelling. Both collections, were relocated from The Museum of Myth and Fable in Shrewsbury to Todmorden on 26th April. A particularly special part of the Mythstories collection is the books and storytelling doll collection of the late Trinidadian storyteller, Grace Hallworth who, during her life, inspired young readers and audiences, and mentored many storytellers.

Additionally, the Centre is delighted to have been granted access to a digital archive of performance storytelling from the London Centre for International Storytelling/Crick Crack Club. The Centre will provide public access to these precious resources alongside future acquisitions, making it a key centre for academic research as well as somewhere for enthusiasts of all ages to explore the literature of folklore.

Ultimately, in collaboration with archaeologist Debora Moretti from the West Yorkshire Archaeological Society, the Centre hopes to house an archive of all the folklore records for sites of historical interest across West Yorkshire.

The Centre was first set up in 2019 and its launch event - The Witch – History/Legacy symposium –attracted nationally and internationally renowned speakers in the field. The event was a sell-out success, despite intermittent covid restrictions and the lack of a permanent home for the Centre, showing that there is a real appetite for a project like this in Todmorden.

Since the initial launch, an enormous amount of networking behind the scenes by Holly Elsdon has led to the Centre becoming both locally and nationally important. Nationally acclaimed folklorists and storytellers such as Amanda Edmiston, The Folklore Library and Archive, The Scottish Storytelling Centre and a number of national academic projects are on board, and the Centre is officially recognised by The Folklore Society, founded in 1878. In a letter to Holly in October 2021, their president, Owen Davies expresses his full support for the project.

Events planned for 2022 include:

  • an exhibition of Todmorden folklore by local historian John Billingsley
  • an appearance at the Hebden Bridge Folk Festival
  • a joint 'Witchcraft Symposium' with the University of York and the West Yorkshire Folklore Society (June 2022)
  • an exhibition in collaboration with the Todmorden UFO group
  • a joint event with the University of Hertfordshire's 'Open Graves, Open Minds' as part of the 'Being Human' festival (November 2022)
  • the Centre as a venue for the 'Whitby Krampus Run On Tour' later this year.

In addition, there are discussions taking place with local and national artists, storytellers and writers regarding events, exhibitions and talks.
All of this not only puts the Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic at the centre of the local community, but gives Todmorden significant status in the wider community of storytelling and folklore interest as well as academic research.

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