The Cork Folklore Project, established as a community-based urban public folklore project in 1996, is singular in Ireland in its nature and longevity. The project incorporates both research and job training and support, and disseminates its work in journal, book, audio/radio, film and online formats, with an emphasis on distribution at no cost to audiences. Its long-term presence and engagement has resulted in a relationship with those in the locality (individuals and groups) that has a peer-to-peer quality, and which is often expressed as a felt engagement with the organisation as much as with its individuals.
This paper explores some questions and observations relating to the Project’s role as a site of engaged ethnography, a slow-burning research project generating vivid, textured accounts of everyday life in the past and present. These include the challenges of serving both community and academic agendas, and of balancing expectations regarding the activities of a ‘folklore’ group with the need to engage with the diversity of people and of experiences among our contributors and audiences. Exactly who our ‘parish’ should and might be is a question that demands constant review, particularly when the reach and potential applications of online dissemination are considered in conjunction with increased business, academic, artistic/creative and media interest in material generated by listening to the everyday. Simultaneously, the openness and research potential inherent in such a project by virtue of its not being a themed, time-bounded academic research project is explored.