Piers Merchant, the former Tory MP for Beckenham (later an adviser to UKIP), died earlier this week. A member of the Major government, he stepped down after a particularly asinine sex scandal. (Even one of the local papers recalled him chiefly as 'Tory sleaze MP').
As somebody who'd grown up in Beckenham I watched the unfolding scandal with some amusement. Most of all I enjoyed a letter in the Guardian of 3rd April 1997, noting the following local piece of graffiti:
Welcome to the folklore blog of Paul Cowdell. I'll post here details of ongoing research, bits and pieces from previous fieldwork, items of news, and anything else that seems to fit.
I got interested in folklore research while working as an actor/facilitator in community theatre. I was initially interested in folk song, which remains my abiding love, but I'm easily persuaded that all aspects of folklife are fascinating and worthy of study.
I took an MA in Folklore and Cultural Tradition at the National Centre for English Cultural Tradition (NATCECT) at the University of Sheffield, graduating with a Distinction for my Dissertation on 'Traditional Song in Social Context: A Study of Romney Marsh'. I won the Folklore Society's President's Prize in 2006 for an essay on dating an unpublished agricultural protest song in the Francis Collinson folk song collection. Having done fieldwork for the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Festival 2007, I went over to Washington DC to work there as a presenter. I have continued to do presentation work, and have made regular appearances on radio discussing aspects of folklore.
I completed a PhD at the University of Hertfordshire, where I was looking at contemporary belief in ghosts. The thesis is available online here. I am a serving committee member of the Folklore Society.
You can drop me a line at paul.cowdell AT talk21.com (@ replaces AT)