Doc Rowe: Saving Decades of Cultural Customs

by Tom Wood | Nov 13, 2023 | Stories

Doc Rowe: Saving Decades of Cultural Customs

For over six decades, Doc Rowe has been a dedicated archivist, folklorist, and cultural historian, tirelessly documenting the rich tapestry of folk traditions across mainland Britain. Now, in an effort to secure his invaluable legacy, filmmakers Rob Curry and Tim Plester have embarked on a crowdfunding campaign to digitize and archive Doc Rowe’s extensive collection of audiovisual materials.

At time of publication, the project has smashed through its £25,000 target and raised over £40,000 from over 730 supporters! There is are still 7 days to go, so if you would like to support this project, click the link above to find their project page. If you are looking to crowdfund for your own film or documentary, click here to find out more!

The Challenge

The initiative to create a documentary about Doc Rowe, undertaken by Curry and Plester, was catalyzed by the desire to ensure the preservation of Doc’s archive for posterity. Amidst the challenges posed by the global pandemic, the filmmakers took on the task of not only featuring Doc’s remarkable footage in the film but also playing a pivotal role in permanently securing his legacy.

The Film: A Portrait of Britain

The documentary offers a poignant portrayal of Doc Rowe’s life during the unprecedented events of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following him through the travails of the year, the film captures not only his efforts to get back on the road despite health issues and lockdowns but also his quest to find a permanent home for his extensive audiovisual material.

The Crowdfunding Campaign

To achieve this ambitious goal, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched, inviting individuals to contribute to the creation of a permanent digital archive of Doc Rowe’s work. Rather than merely digitizing select portions of the archive, the campaign aims to digitize the entirety of the material related to folk traditions currently stored in film stock and old video formats in Doc’s archive in Whitby.

Collaborating with organizations such as awen productions CIC, the Museum of British Folklore, the British Film Institute, Dirty Looks, and the English Folk Dance and Song Society, the campaign ensures a comprehensive and meticulous approach to the digitization process. The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library is set to house the resulting digital copy, enabling Doc to share this cultural wealth with communities dedicated to preserving these customs and, eventually, the general public.

Crowdfunder: Platform Meets Perfect Project

In a chat with Crowdfunder, Rob discussed the experience of using the crowdfunding platform for their project. “The reason we chose to use Crowdfunder is because it has a flexibility that the other platforms don’t have,” said Curry, “I think it really works for projects like this, which are, on one level we’re fundraising for a film. But fundamentally, we’re not. We’re fundraising for a cause, You know? We’re fundraising to save Doc’s archive, and the platform is really suited to that sort of project.”

As part of the project, the team created a number of fantastic rewards, including low cost boons such as being able to stream the film when it’s released, to special invitations to the premiere and – with higher tiers – being named Executive Producer in the film’s credits, among others.

The project has gained significant attention from high-profile supporters (writer Neil Gaiman was seen on social media platform X talking about the project) and press interviews.

The crowdfunding campaign to digitize and archive Doc Rowe’s work is not just about preserving the past; it’s a collective effort to secure the future of an irreplaceable cultural legacy. By contributing to this campaign, individuals have the opportunity to play a role in safeguarding the unique heritage of the British Isles as documented by one of its most dedicated stewards. In doing so, we ensure that Doc Rowe’s lifelong commitment to preserving and celebrating folk traditions continues to resonate for generations to come.

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