Lori Watson (AHRC Research, Development and Engagement Fellow)

Lecturer in Scottish Ethnology


I hold the first artistic research and ethnomusicology doctorate in Scotland, for which I explored the evolving practices of extended and experimental composition by traditional musicians in Scotland. My current AHRC-supported research is a continuation of this including the foundation of the first national music collection of 'beyond-tune' compositions by traditional musicians in Scotland at the Scottish Music Centre in Glasgow. I am a leading Traditional musician and experienced performer. I was awarded Citty Finlayson Scots Singer of the Year in 2017 and my album 'Yarrow Acoustic Sessions' was The Guardian Folk Album of the Year in 2018. I have an array of education experience in community and HE settings and hold a PGCert in Learning and Teaching, with special interests in performance, assessment and mental health.

A fiddle player, singer and interpreter of Scots and traditional song, I compose instrumental music, songs and innovative works. I grew up in the Scottish Borders and continue to draw on the landscapes, people, literature, folklore, music and folk traditions of the area.

Having contributed to the programme review of the BMus Traditional Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, with an emphasis on performance assessment, research skills and professional skills, I was invited to design Celtic & Scottish Studies' new MSc Traditional Arts Performance programme starting in September 2020 (the first performance programme connected to the world-renowned School of Scottish Studies and the first to combine the three main traditional arts: music, storytelling and dance).

I am also a keen fieldworker and have a strong interest in how we can contribute to and develop archives today.


PhD, St Andrew's University

PGCert, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

BA (hons), Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama

Responsibilities & affiliations

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Chair of the Traditional Music Forum, 2018-2023

Celtic & Scottish Studies Web Officer

Trustee for the Scottish Oral History Group

AHRC Fellow

External Examiner for the University of the Highlands and Islands


Undergraduate teaching


Scotland & Orality (level 9 )

Traditional Song - Scots (level 10,11)

Traditional Music (level 10, 11)

Archives & Interpretation (level 10, 11)

Ethnological Fieldwork Methods (level 10, 11)

Scottish Ethnology and Scottish Studies Honours Dissertations (level 10)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I engage with all aspects of traditional arts, with a particular interest in contemporary folk music practice, creativity and performance. My primary disciplines include ethnomusicology, artistic research (or practice-based research) and education.

Current PhD students supervised

Emma Tomlinson, 2017 - , RCS and St Andrews University - Developing the Viola in Scottish Traditional Music.

Allison Stringer, 2018 - , RCS and St Andrews University - The Scottish compositions of Alexander Campbell Mackenzie (1847-1935).

Ruth Salter, 2019 - , Celtic & Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, supported by SGSAH - The Scottish Folk Revival and Marxist Cultural Theory.

Meg Hyland, 2021 - , Celtic & Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, Music and dance in the lives of itinerant herring gutters in the British and Irish fishing industries from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries.

Nina Willms, 2024- , Investigating traditional folktales and the feminist potential found in their performance.


Past PhD students supervised

Rowan Bayliss-Hawitt, 2020 - 2024, Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh, supported by an Edinburgh College of Art Research Award - Environment and time in contemporary Scottish and English folk music.

Emilia Lajunen, 2017 - 2023, PhD, Sibelius Academy, Finland - Archival recordings and simultaneous dancing and playing as extensions of the musician's expression.

Karin Bosshard, 2019 - 2023, Translation Studies, University of Edinburgh - Literary heteroglossia in contemporary Scottish prose fiction and its translation from theoretical and practical perspectives. (I contributed to supervision with a focus on the Scots language in Ian Stephen's A Book of Death and Fish, 2014.)

Timothy MacDonald, 2021 - 2022, MScR Scottish Ethnology, University of Edinburgh - ‘A Slee and Pawky Art': The Rhetorical Performance of Violin Music in Late Eighteenth-Century Edinburgh.

Ye Duan, 2021-2022, MSc Comparative Literature, University of Edinburgh - John Cage and Donald Barthelme

Research summary

My research interests include contemporary traditional music practice, innovation, creativity and tradition, the nature of tradition and traditional music in Scotland, vocal mechanics of traditional singing, creative and performance strengths of traditional and multi-genre musicians, in-performance communication, improvisation, composition, bringing context to performance, music and song of Scotland, cultural heritage of the Scottish Borders, and the traditional arts of music, storytelling and dance.

Research activities

View all 10 activities on Research Explorer

Project activity

People's Voice (2019 - )

Mapping current voice use and understandings in folk and traditional singers in Scotland and exploring the application of vocal mechanics knowledge to improve vocal health, instrument awareness and artistry.

Outputs: workshops (1.25h), research article

Rebellious Truth (2018 - 19)

An exploration of modern interpretations of traditional music, creative process and practitioner perceptions. Outputs include a concert curated for Celtic Connections international festival, Glasgow January 2019 and the production of a live album released in 2019.

Outputs: Live concert (1.5h), album (50m), presentation/recital (1h), research article

The New Traditional School in Scotland: Innovation, Beyond-tune composition and a Traditional Musicians' Creative Practice  (2005-2012)

A PhD study of contemporary traditional music practice in Scotland mapping beyond-tune composition and exploring innovative music making by traditional musicians (including myself).

Outputs: Thesis (67151w), portfolio (2.5h) and extensive fieldwork materials (40h+).

Structures for Freedom (2008 - 2010)


Current project grants

AHRC Fellowship, 2023-2024 - £250,000

Past project grants

Royal Society of Edinburgh small grant, 2021 - £5000
Celtic Connections commission, 2019 - £5000
School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures Knowledge Exchange and Impact grant, 2019 - £2760
Tasgadh grant 2018, Scots Language Café - £700
Transmission Fund, Authentic Artist Programme - £1476
Hope Scott Trust & Outlandia Residency 2017, Project Breathe - £1750
Tasgadh grant 2017, Mac Íle: The Music of Fraser Shaw (book) - £1000
Tasgadh grant 2015, The Music of Tom Hughes - £1000
Creative Scotland Quality Production 2014, Yarrow - £6000
Creative Scotland Quality Production 2013, Boreas Ahoy Hoy - £9347
EMS Trad Arts Small Grant 2013, Boreas Residency - £2954
Arts Trust Scotland Award 2011, Graphic Scores for Traditional Musicians - £2000

View all 7 publications on Research Explorer