What a great topic! And one which is endlessly discussed amongst the (probably) fiftysomethings of the current 'folk scene'.My brother-in-law and I have a pet theory about the apparent lack of interest in folk music by the younger generation. Folk music was 'inflicted' on the progeny of this older generation in the form of compulsory festival visiting and club-going at a very young age...and in many, many cases it didn't take. Show me the child who thinks that everything his parents say and do is great. Of course there are exceptions to the rule but appreciation of this music sems to have largely skipped a generation. Quite how you sell the attraction of sitting in hushed reverence in the back room of a quiet pub being 'shooshed' and 'quieted' whilst not being allowed to smoke or drink (it is alleged that young people are not immune from these habits), frankly beats me, well certainly the drinking part. Festivals are another matter...amplified music and a free and easy atmosphere brings the whole experience more into line with what is the norm for them. Someone said that unless the kids organise Folk Clubs themselves they won't be interested, and I reckon that could be right. My first folk club visit age 16 found me in the company of my peers, with the organisers certainly not of my parents generation even if a little older than myself - it was exciting and edgy believe it or not, with young people interpreting the music. Often a song or tune was attributed to a certain traditional singer which meant that there then followed a voyage of discovery to either seek out a reference, recording or even to see that person perform. One night someone concluded a song followed by the fateful words "and that was from the singing of The Copper Family" and eventually I ended up marying one of them!
As for our own younger generation, well, they came to the singing when they were ready. Never cajoled or persuaded they just saw what a damned good time we oldies had when we got together. Maybe it's the taking part that counts and not the performing. Maybe there will be a new way in which folk music can be appreciated that will ensure the attraction of youngsters...someone said it's not cool - that's for sure, although Eliza Carthy appearing on Jools Holland's show was a stroke of genius on someone's part, what a fine ambassador she is!
One thing's for sure, the music will never die but it may go into a sort of suspended animation for a while awaiting the arrival of a whole new audience discovering it for themselves for the first time...just the way we greybeards did forty plus years ago.