leland2_fmtCharles Godfrey Leland was an immensely influential folklorist and lecturer. The author of Aradia, or The Gospel of Witches and the Breitmann Ballads, Leland was a bonafide bohemian and globe-trotter who also delighted in his reputation as a wizard. An admirer of Paracelsus, Giordano Bruno, and Justinus Kerner, Leland believed his success was due in part to a kind of inner sorcery. His system, which involved striking up an intimate relationship with an oracular entity, was developed to enable anyone to induce a self-haunting. This talk will take deep look at Leland’s method of self-possession and discuss his views on ceremonial magic.

Jonah Locksley is a cultural historian and writer. He curates The Thinker’s Garden and Godfrey’s Almanack, two digital projects which explore the sublime and outré aspects of art, history, and literature.

The talk is held in the upstairs room of The Old King’s Head & costs £3/1.50concs. It will commence at 8pm. Walk-ups are welcome but you may prefer to book in advance by emailing

DEC8 SELFS DECEMBER TALK: Ritual Land Uncommon Ground


This December’s South East London Folklore Society presentation is about the ritual landscape.
Britain has been settled for millenia. From time to time we leave evidence of our part in this island story. Folk performer George Hoyle A.K.A Cunning Folk will talk & sing about our relationship with the land, how our identity is shaped by geography & the magic which springs up in forgotten corners as a result

The event is in the upstairs room of The Old King’s Head, off Borough High Street at 8pm on December 8th

Entrance is £3/1.50 concs

you can stroll up on the night or email to guarantee a place

















Robin Hood Ballads: The ‘Real Robin Hood’?
Bob Askew 10th November 2016
The Robin Hood Ballads are the source for the core stories of the Robin Hood figure that we know today. They have been sung, recited and read for centuries; long before people wrote novels, or made films and TV programmes. Do the ballads depict the ‘real Robin Hood’, a different person to the English hero that we know so well today? Bob will trace the development of the Robin Hood story, and look at the many ballads about him.
Bob Askew is a lifelong lover of folk songs. He is particularly interested in the folk songs of his native Hampshire, and has researched the singers of these songs. He has also explored the life of George Gardiner, the Edwardian folk song collector, who noted over 1000 songs there. He writes articles, and gives talks on Hampshire Folk Songs. His interest in Robin Hood Ballads was provoked by the fact that seven different Robin Hood ballads were noted in a small area of Hampshire in 1907.

The talk starts at 8pm in the upstairs room of the Old King’s Head
Entrance is £3/1.50 concessions
email to book a place or chance your arm & roll up on the night


14433123_10153780530197073_1122825533560219093_n170 years ago a letter appeared in the Athenaeum. It was signed ‘Ambrose Merton’, a pseudonym for literary antiquarian William John Thoms, and it proposed a neologism: ‘folklore’. This provides a good origin story for the study of folklore – it’s the first time folklorists identify themselves as such – but while Thoms may have invented the word he didn’t invent the subject. This talk will be a brief introduction to how we’ve come to think about folklore. Amongst other things it’ll discuss what William Thoms meant by the word and how he arrived at that meaning, and where we’ve taken folklore since. Folklore: we’re all interested in it, we all do it, let’s think about it.

Paul Cowdell is a Committee member of the Folklore Society. He’s been described charitably as ‘interested in morbid eschatology’, after a PhD on ghost belief and articles on cannibalism at sea. He’s written on tongue twisters and lore about rats, and is interested in lots of lurid things. He likes folklore a lot.

The talk is in the upstairs room of the Old King’s Head, in King’s Head Yard off Borough High Street & costs £3/£1.50 concs. email to book a place or roll up on the night & chance your arm.


Human Cargo Book Cover - Front
Matthew Crampton explores the experiences of people who were trafficked or transported in the 18th and 19th centuries – linking their stories to those of migrants and slaves today. In tonight’s talk, Matthew will tell some of those stories, drawing on accounts from people actually on the slave boats, emigration ships or transportation vessels. He’ll also sing some folk songs from the period – for, as he explains, folk songs give anonymous but accurate voice to those who were otherwise unrecorded by history.

Matthew Crampton is a writer, storyteller and folk singer. His book, Human Cargo, was published by Muddler Books in April 2016. He has performed a show based on Human Cargo at several major festivals this summer.

You can find out more information about Human Cargo at

This talk will be held in the upstairs room of The Old King’s Head at 8pm

Entrance is £3/1.50 concessions

to guarantee a seat you may wish to email or you can chance your arm & roll up on the night



One of the features of Shakespeare’s writing which has been frequently mentioned during this 400th anniversary year is his many references to herbs. This talk will look at how herbalists and apothecaries used the plants he mentions, and also the plant-lore and folklore of these herbs. Coming into the present day, one of the lines in The Winter’s Tale is prophetic of the cutting-edge of plant medicine today.

Julie Wakefield is a museum curator and medical historian specialising in historic herbalism and folk medicine. She gives talks at the Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret and in Southwark Cathedral’s new herb garden, the design of which reflects historical advice she provided.

The talk is in the upstairs room of The Old King’s Head & commences at 8pm.


email to book a place or chance your arm & roll up on the night

SELFS Talk: Thursday July 14th: Wicca


The past century has borne witness to a growing interest in the belief systems of ancient Europe, with an array of contemporary Pagan groups claiming to revive these old ways for the needs of the modern world. By far the largest and best known of these Paganisms has been Wicca, a new religious movement that can now count hundreds of thousands of adherents worldwide. In this talk, Ethan Doyle White will provide a historical outline of this faith, in doing so examining its beliefs, practices, and the community of practitioners that has developed around it.

Ethan Doyle White is a PhD researcher at University College London (UCL) and is the author of Wicca: History, Belief, and Community in Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Sussex Academic Press, 2016) as well as various other publications on the subjects of modern Paganism and related forms of occultism, and the religious beliefs and practices of early medieval England.

The talk is in the upstairs room of The Old King’s Head & commences at 8pm.


email to book a place or chance your arm & roll up on the night


















SELFS TALK: Thursday 9th June: The Confused Origins Of Freemasonry

Beneath all the many mysteries about Freemasonry there are two questions which no one seems able to answer. First, where did it spring from? Many say it originated in the Knights Templar or Rosicrucians or mediaeval stonemasons – but could any of these be true? Second, why did it suddenly become organised in London almost 300 years ago?

Dr David V Barrett, author of A Brief History of Secret Societies, explores these questions and comes up with some intriguing possibilities.

The talk is in the upstairs room of The Old King’s Head & commences at 8pm.


email to book a place or chance your arm & roll up on the night

SELFS Talk: May 12th: Execution Sites Of London

London was once known as the “City of the Gallows” for the frequency of its public executions. Since the 10th Century over two hundred thousand people are believed to have been beheaded, burned at the stake or hanged, for crimes ranging from counterfeiting to witchcraft. Public executions were once keenly anticipated events, attended by passionate and partisan crowds often numbering tens of thousands and London’s execution sites, including Tower Hill, Tyburn, Smithfield and Charing Cross became popular destinations for visitors. Public executions were finally outlawed in Britain in 1867. Historian, folklorist and gravestone expert ROBERT STEPHENSON will recount some of the more grisly episodes from this once popular spectator sport.

The talk will be in the upstairs room of The Old King’s Head, off Borough High Street, & will commence at 8pm

It costs £3/£1.50 concessions

Walk ups are welcome. To guarantee a seat email

APR14 SELFS TALK: Thursday April 14th: The Greenland Whale Fishery.The history of & in a song.


The Greenland Whale Fishery ( Roud 347), described by A.L. Lloyd as “the oldest – and many think the best – of our surviving songs of the whaling trade” gives a fascinating insight into the dangers and disasters of the 18th and 19th century whaling industry. Tracing the song from broadside sheets, via the late Victorian collectors, through the 50s and 60s folk revival to the present day illuminates the life of the song, as well as the history of the British whaling fleet. The journey takes us from London’s Greenland Dock, to Orkney and Shetland and on to Spitzbergen and Greenland, following the voyages of Scoresby and Conan Doyle.
There will be singing.

Sarah Lloyd is currently completing an M.A. in The Traditional Music of the British Isles at the University of Sheffield. She sings and plays in the folk band, Gentlefolk, performs solo and with others at The Goose is Out and is a member of Dulwich Folk Choir, where she first learned this song.

Talk starts at 8pm in the upstairs room of The Old King’s Head.
Walk ups are very welcome, however you may wish to book in advance to guarantee a seat

email George at

Admission is £3/1.50concs