Oh my, I've really done it now. I've turned the apple cart good and proper with my last post. I was expecting a healthy debate but not the storm that seems to have erupted in the comments pages. It's well known that you mess with the folk world at your peril. I ought to have known.
Correspondance and comments have fallen into two equally sized camps (I've deleted insulting ad hominem remarks. Not big and not clever). There are those who agreed with me wholeheartedly, who've commended me for saying something that needed to be said. As you'd expect, most of those comments have come from people who've not done or have no connection to the Newcastle Folk degree (though not exclusively); mostly, they've been posted on facebook (as you'd also expect).
Then there has been a spirited defence of the course, mostly, but not exclusively by students and ex-students, and mostly posted on this blog. It's heartening to see the passion and commitment with which they take their studies, a passion and commitment that seems equally shared by their tutors. If only all University departments managed such high levels of motivation. While the fantasy curriculum of my imaginary degree was just that, a fantasy, I've enjoyed reading about the actual Newcastle curriculum - we seem to be singing from the same page. I'm sorry that some people felt I was being unduly harsh by singling out the Teacups - that wasn't my intention at all, and in case you missed it, I praised their musicianship. I wish them every success in the world and have no doubt they will get it.
No, what I was hoping to do was raise two important questions about diversity and authenticity.
Leaving Glasgow to one side (as I think, Scotland is a separate case), Newcastle is currently the only University offering a folk degree. Not only does that restrict choice but it means that there is only one take on how to do folk music. However much they get it right (and students certainly seem to think that they do) I think this an unhealthy situation. A diversity of approaches is surely called for.
My second question about authenticity, about whether folk ought to be taught through the institutions of higher education at all, remains the more controversial one. There are those who say it puts folk on the map and affords it a badly needed legitimacy; others think this exactly the problem.
I may not have put the question skilfully but it's surely one that needs to be asked.