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Cecil Sharp's Yan Tan Tethera Season

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
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For the Love of Textiles

Yan over the fence, tan over the fence, tethera over the fence.

Forgive me, I didn't get much sleep last night, so I'm counting sheep. 'Yan Tan Tethera' is the traditional way shepherds from Northern England used to keep an eye their flock. It is a counting system used up until the industrial revolution, with yan standing for 'one', tan for 'two', and 'tethera' for three. It was a ritual performed whener the flock was moved or sheared to make sure none of the sheep went missing.

In popular culture, the term has been referenced in both books and music, particularly ones featuring folk traditions. David Littler from the English Folk Dance and Song Society has curated a special Yan Tan Tether Season for Cecil Sharp House, in which there will be various activities starting from the 10th May. These include an exhibition, festival, and workshops.

May in a Day!
10th May, 2:00pm - 5:00pm, 6 adults, 4 under 18s

This folk festival is a celebration of all things textile. There will be arts and crafts, live bands, maypole dancing, morris dancing, and other activities.

Museums at Night
15th May, 7:00pm - 10:30pm, Free

Sing along with the Cecil Sharp Choir and make textile crafts with the help of Prick Your Finger.

Spinging Yarns
5th July, 7:00pm - 9:30pm, 6

In a night of adult music-making, you will be singing songs inspired by the rhythms, activities and traditions of textile making.

Yan Tan Tether Exhibition
15th May - 25th September, Free

Bringing all these activities together is a five-month exhibition that delves deep into the archives of Vaughan Williams Memorial Library to bring you all the traditions of folk music and performance.
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Why? Fun for families
When: 10th May - 25th September
Phone: 44(0)7900 286 859.
Where: Cecil Sharp House
Cost: Free-6
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