Man playing an accordion you can only see his hands

Digging Deeper at the ORFC24

The place where science and folk music intersect is the basis for Tipping Points. Between 2022 and 2024 I worked with Luke Daniels a well known folk musician to develop a workshop that explored the interactions between science and society.

The Oxford Real Farming Conference

In its 15th year the ORFC proudly claims to highlight an alternative to the traditional and somewhat more conventional Oxford Farming Conference that runs at the same time. The ORFC emphasizes the importance of rural lives and the living that is made on the land. 

Dubbed an "alternative farming conference" the ORFC attracts farmers, growers, activists, policymakers and researchers from around the world who are interested in transforming our food system.  We heard about small to micro-businesses, community, culture, and identity.

ORFC is a place to share progressive ideas. The broad programme delves deep into farming practices and techniques as well as addressing the bigger questions relating to our food and farming system.  

I was delighted to present a session "Tipping Points" with Luke looking at the ways in which folk music-making can map sociocultural change on the land, environment, landscape, activism and traditions. 

Lucy with a sheep

Musicians and farmers-as-science communicators

The session we have developed started out as a small workshop which was launched at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik in 2022.  We met scientists and academics from all over the world.  

It was here that I made a connection with some women from Alaska who shared similar experiences to me.  We talked about life in Anchorage, SalmonFest and much much more.

It turns out they had travelled to Ullapool a small fishing village close to where I live in North West Scotland.  Our conversation quickly turned to shared issues of rurality, depopulation and changes in the ways of life for fisherfolk.  Our conversation was prompted by one of the session songs "The Final Trawl" by Archie Fisher.

"The death of a boat is the first casualty in the decline of a fishing community."

In the session I wanted to explore how folk music-making can support science communication and how the composer-as-science communicator method can establish an interdisciplinary approach to science communication that is rooted in lived experience.

Having developed the research work there is a journal paper in progress written together with Luke and Nancy Kerr, a well-known musician and folk educator with over 25 years' teaching experience in both formal and community education settings.

Luke playing melodeon

The next steps

We are looking to take the session to more places and to explore the outputs from a musician/scientist dyad.  After Oxford we met some researchers from the Rothamsted Institute in Devon.  We are hoping to develop the conversation and head to the Dartmoor Folk Festival to join with Dr Melanie Wright and soil scientist Professor Andy Neal.  

Also, who knew?  Andy is a fantastic double bass player who is often seen with the Devon Philharmonic Orchestra in his spare time.  Luke and I are looking forward to catching up with him for a tune or two.


Any thoughts? Please share...

Have your say...

Please note, comments are checked before appearing on the site.

Last updated:

Lucy Beattie

Lucy Beattie

Hi I'm Lucy, a PhD Candidate with the UWS Academy. I'm looking at the role of public engagement in connecting teaching and research in Higher Education

Read More