Peter Kennedy

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Peter Douglas Kennedy, collector and musician, November 18, 1922 - June 10, 2006.

Peter Kennedy's father, Douglas, was director of the EFDSS after Cecil Sharp.

Kennedy was one of the presenters of the BBC folk music programme As I Roved Out, broadcast during the 1950s, which featured field recordings of traditional singers. Working for the BBC and on his own account, he went on collecting trip across the British Isles, collaborating with other collectors including Alan Lomax, Seamus Ennis, and his aunt Maud Karpeles. His recordings were featured on the 1960s Caedmon LP series The Folk Songs of Britain, while later Kennedy founded the Folktrax label.

Although indisputably one of the major twentieth century collectors, Kennedy's methods and attitudes frequently attracted criticism - see for example Peter Kennedy: an appraisal on the Musical Traditions website.

The Peter Kennedy Collection

"Peter Kennedy died on 10 June 2006 and his wife, Beryl, earlier this year. A small group has been working with David Kennedy to ensure that Peter's collection of sound recordings, books, papers and other artefacts remains available in the UK for future researchers. This group was formed at Peter's instigation a few months before his death and is known as Customs and Traditions or CAT.

It had become clear, in recent years, that maintaining the collection as a single entity was not going to be easy and so it proved. Peter's own efforts to secure a future for the collection were not, unfortunately, completely successful. There was some confusion in the months following his death but a set of agreements is now in place that has, we believe, resolved the situation as well as could be hoped in the circumstances.

The outcome of these agreements is that Peter's collection has been placed as follows:

1. The library of about 3,000 books has been given to the Halsway Manor Society as well as his collection of journals. These will, once catalogued and prepared, be added to the existing library and the whole will be known as the Kennedy Grant Memorial Library. The gift to Halsway Manor Society also includes Peter's collection of commercial recordings of folk music comprising c.3,000 78rpm records, 3,000 LPs, 500 CDs/DVDs, 50 HMV test pressings, and other items. HMS has also received a full set of the folktrax recordings issued by Peter Kennedy.

2. CAT, with David Kennedy, has worked with Tony Engle, head of Topic Records, and Dr Janet Topp-Fargion, curator of the World and Traditional Music Section of the British Library Sound Archive, to secure an agreement in respect of the archive of sound recordings. As a result of these discussions Topic Records has acquired the rights to the recordings and will be working towards releases of as much of the material as is commercially viable. This will obviously take some time but they hope that these releases will happen early in 2009 - Topic's 70th year. The British Library Sound Archive will house and protect the tapes and, in due course, they will be available for listening via the British Library procedures. As well as the recordings themselves, Peter's files and records form part of this archive and will provide valuable background information for the recordings that are issued and for future researchers.

3. A small collection of papers and photographs that came from Maud Karpeles' estate have been given by David Kennedy to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library where the bulk of her papers are housed. Some other family artefacts and papers have also been presented to the VWML.

Peter's sales outlet, Folktrax, ceased trading on 30 September 2007 and the associated website was closed. Following requests from a number of people it is planned that, with the support of the Traditional Song Forum, a revised version of the website will be opened shortly as a source of information about Peter's work and as a permanent memorial to Peter and Beryl Kennedy. CAT will be wound up in the next few weeks.

Obviously, it will be some time before the new holders of the material will be able to make access to it available or to deal with more than very basic enquiries. In years to come, though, there will be a large quantity of new and interesting material from and about Peter Kennedy's collection that will enable future researchers to form their own views of this complex man and his work."

Martin Graebe (for Customs and Traditions) - October 2007 from


  • Peter Kennedy, Folksongs of Britain and Ireland: A Guidebook to the Living Tradition of Folksinging in the British Isles and Ireland, Containing 360 Folksongs from Field Recordings Sung in English, Lowland Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Manx Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Channel Islands French, Romany and Tinkers' Cants, etc. (London: Cassell, 1975).
    Arranged by region and by theme, largely from field recordings made by Kennedy in the 1950s, and including other bibliographical information.


External references

  • Reg Hall's Annotated Discography [1] ; A 350 page definitive PDF!