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The Katharine Briggs Award 2018

— Posted on 26th November 2018

We are delighted to announce that the winner of this year’s Katharine Briggs Award is:

Martin Graebe, for his book As I Walked Out: Sabine Baring-Gould and the Search for the Folk Songs of Devon and Cornwall (Signal Books).

The Runner-up is:  David Atkinson, The Ballad and its Pasts: Literary Histories and the Play of Memory (D.S. Brewer).

And in Joint Third Place:

Hilary Coleman and Sally Burley, Hark! The Glad Sound of Cornish Carols (Francis Boutle)


Bairbre Ní Fhloinn, Cold Iron: Aspects of the Occupational Lore of Irish Fishermen (Four Courts Press).


Report of the Katharine Briggs Award Judges 2018

2018 was a good year for strong publications from academic and non-academic publishers and authors alike. There were 32 entries.

Certain areas were strongly represented, with a number of good books on Cornwall, the South West of England and East Anglia … also on fishing communities and their life and lore.

In what seems to be a recent development several titles showed the theoretical influence of theatre practice and history.

We wish to thank all the authors and publishers who have shown their support for the Katharine Briggs Award by entering their books into the competition.

Judges’ Comments on the Short Listed Entries


  • David Atkinson, The Ballad and Its Pasts: Literary Histories and the Play of Memory (D.S. Brewer)

This excellent collection of essays, thanks to its careful focus, manages to have a lot to say more widely than just on its immediate subject. A genuinely scholarly book that explores ideas in such a careful and sensible way as to enable even the critical reader to draw something from them.

  • Hilary Coleman and Sally Burley, Hark! The Glad Sound of Cornish Carols(Francis Boutle)

A lovely book in nearly all respects, with fine accompanying CDs. The judges noted that the sense of almost ethnographic immediacy that results from the authors’ closeness to their material and the carol singing is a little unusual. It usefully offers the beginnings of a rounded picture of 20th century Cornish folklore and practice.

  • Bairbre Ní Fhloinn, Cold Iron: Aspects of the Occupational Lore of Irish Fishermen(Four Courts Press)

This impressive survey of historical material from the Irish Folklore Commission, well augmented by the author’s own fieldwork, is likely to be the benchmark study of this subject for years to come.

  • Martin Graebe, As I Walked Out: Sabine Baring-Gould and the Search for the Folk Songs of Devon and Cornwall(Signal Books)

This is another exemplary work of dedicated independent scholarship that works both as narrative biography and as an opportunity to reflect again on the collector’s role in shaping and inventing ‘tradition’. Readable and rigorous, it is conscious of and fair about the work still to come.

  • Gábor Klaniczay and Eva Pócs (eds), Witchcraft and Demonology in Hungary and Transylvania(Palgrave)

Mostly comprising close case studies, this is the latest English-language volume from some central European scholars who have expanded knowledge of material not widely known outside its own language area. This usefully redresses the understandable Western European domination of English-language publishing on witchcraft, whilst helpfully connecting its content to existing work elsewhere.

  • Michael Ostling (ed), Fairies, Demons, and Nature Spirits: ‘Small Gods’ at the Margins of Christendom(Palgrave)

This strong collection constitutes a very good first step towards a reconstruction of our thinking about fairies, demons and nature spirits. Its placing of these ‘small gods’ within the actual expansion of Christianity rather than as historically precedent allows for a broad and sensitive historical investigation.

  • Peter Tolhurst, This Hollow Land: Aspects of Norfolk Folklore(Black Dog)

This enthusiastic and affectionate book is a well-informed and interesting local collection. Well researched, especially in archaeological areas, it draws the eighteenth-century antiquarians’ work into the field of more recent work.

  • Frances Wilkins, Singing the Gospel along Scotland’s North-East Coast, 1859-2009(Routledge)

This is a really good piece of work, ambitiously linking religious and musical revivals through well described case studies. The book, which still bears traces of its ethnomusicological origins, is a fine and evocative examination of the religious life of the fishing community.

  • Francis Young, Peterborough Folklore(Lasse Books)

Local folklore studying and collecting remains the backbone of folklore studies, and this nice collection is a fine example. Intelligently and sensitively edited, the work is far more than a re-tread of old ground, making good use of older sources, both familiar and less so, and also quite aware of more recent folklore work.