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New Songs and Folklore Project launched

The traditional songs, folklore and history of the coastal region of the South Downs will be brought to life in a new project launched by the South Downs Society this week.

The ‘Secret Shore’ project, which has received a grant of £50,600 from HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund) will recruit volunteers over a two year period to learn the folk songs once popular in the harbour and coastal towns of the region. There will also be workshops in which participants can learn about and research the folklore and superstitions that once played such an important role in the lives of everyday people.

‘Secret Shore’ will conduct a survey of modern superstitions in the coastal towns and see how present-day beliefs compare with the ones recorded in Victorian times. Volunteers will also be trained to conduct oral history interviews so that the lives and stories of fisherman and other local people can be recorded for posterity.

The project will focus its efforts in the towns of Littlehampton, Worthing, and Shoreham, including some of the most socially deprived wards in the South-East. As South Downs Society Chairman, Robert Cheesman explains, the project will be aimed at a broad cross section of local people – “Between 2011 and 2013 we ran the very successful Songs of the South Downs project, which taught traditional songs to over 200 hundred people. It was a great success but this project has even greater ambitions. We know that most of the population of the South Downs region live in the coastal towns and it is these people we want to engage with, including younger people and those who live in less affluent areas.”

The project will begin recruiting volunteers in the New Year, following the appointment of a Project Manager. Half-day workshops on folklore and local history will be held in Worthing in the spring, followed later in the year with songs workshops in Littlehampton and Shoreham. The ‘Secret Shore’ project will be based in offices in Worthing.

Stuart McLeod, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said: “Superstitions, traditions and folklore are inextricably woven through the history of the fishing and harbour towns of the South Downs and we’re pleased to support the ‘Secret Shore’ which will build on the success of a previous HLF funded project to connect even more people with the fascinating heritage which has helped to shape the communities they live in today.”

The project will end with an exhibition of the research gathered over the two years and the release of a CD of the project of volunteers singing the songs they have learned.