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Roy Palmer Lecture 2023

Lessons Learned from Robin Hood

The Roy Palmer Lecture for 2023 will, again, form a part of the Whitby Folk Week. It will be given by the distinguished folklorist, Dr Stephen Winick.


Steve’s topic will be: ‘Lessons Learned from Robin Hood’


In Britain and America, we all grow up hearing, seeing, and reading tales of Robin Hood. We may know him as a mystical Celtic warrior, a jaded returning crusader, or a youthful martial artist. But before all that, he was a ballad hero. In this lecture, Steve will explore the character as he features in traditional songs and ballads. Robin Hood scholars have focused on certain questions: was there a real outlaw behind the Robin Hood stories, and if so, when did he live? Was Robin a nature spirit in what has been called the “Fairy Mythology?” Or was he more simply a fictional character? He will touch on these subjects, but also suggest other questions more central to the ballad scholar, and the ballad singer: what do the Robin Hood ballads communicate? How can we help them keep communicating to today’s audiences? The lecture will be illustrated with Steve's own live singing, and some of his recorded performances of Robin Hood ballads, on which he is accompanied by leading folk musicians, including Grammy award winners and National Heritage Fellows.

Stephen Winick is a folklorist at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, the home of important archival collections including the Alan Lomax Collection and the James Madison Carpenter Collection. He is the general editor of the Folklife Today blog from the Library of Congress, and the co-host of the Folklife Today podcast. His writing about diverse folklore topics, including ballads, legends, proverbs, and riddles, has appeared in many publications, including 'Folklore', 'The Journal of American Folklore', 'Dirty Linen', 'Realms of Fantasy', and 'Sing Out! 'He was a contributing editor to the 'Grove Dictionary of American Music', 2nd edition, and to the 'All Music Guide'. As a singer with several folk groups, he has performed at diverse venues, including Cecil Sharp House, the Ark, the Birchmere, and Mystic Seaport Museum. For over a decade he has been studying, adapting, arranging, and performing Robin Hood ballads. He holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania, and an undergraduate degree in Middle English from Columbia University. In 2022, he was elected a Fellow of the American Folklore Society.


We are grateful to Whitby Folk Week for agreeing to host the Roy Palmer Lecture. It will take place at the Coliseum, 1B Victoria Pl, Whitby YO21 1EZ, on Thurday 24 August (time tbc)*. The event will be open to all without charge. The lecture will not be live-streamed, but a video will be available on YouTube later in the year.

*These details will be confirmed nearer the date of the lecture.

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