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The Power And Glory Of Folk Music

Kevin Bourke finds BBC´s Radio 2 annual Folk Awards a great success

Published on February 9th 2012.

The Power And Glory Of Folk Music

WHEN BBC Radio 2 took the decision to move the annual Folk Awards outside London for the first time, they also decided to make it a public event. The tickets, when they went on sale for last night's show at The Lowry, completely sold out in less than two hours, making it one of, if not the, fastest-selling show in even the Lowry's illustrious history.

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Radio 2 Folk Awards

But why should that come as a surprise to anyone? Folk music is the music of the people after all and the thing about folk music in all its many forms is that it's always there. Styles may come and styles may go - and at the moment folk is enjoying a fantastic resurgence in popularity - but real people will always want to sing about their lives, whether it's to celebrate them or to challenge higher authorities about their misrule.

 That mix of reverence for the tradition with a keen eye on the present and the future is what keeps folk music not just alive but vital. The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards is an invaluable part of that process and we should all be overjoyed that the BBC not only acknowledge that but came here to celebrate it.

So it was fitting that last night's triumphant celebration of the power and glory of folk, broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, was staged only a couple of hundred yards from where Ewan MacColl, one of our most treasured singers and songwriters, was born. At the end of the show, The Dubliners, who'd just received a Lifetime Achievement for their own fifty years as bar-room ballad kings, sang his iconic song Dirty Old Town, inspired by Salford, and there can't have been many people in the packed hall who weren't moved.


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Radio 2 Folk Awards

It was that sort of night. Celebrity presenters who you might not have expected to be folk fans, such as Coronation Street’s Kate Ford (Tracy Barlow), Billy Elliot playwright Lee Hall, comedians Ed Byrne and Jeremy Hardy, and BBC broadcasters Stuart Maconie and Paul Gambaccini, along with our very own stalwart folk champion Mike Harding, rubbed shoulders with their own heroes. There was laughter and tears, passion and grace.

There were electrifying live performances from the likes of Christy Moore, The Unthanks, Martin Simpson, Seth Lakeman, June Tabor and Oysterband, Tim Edey and Brendan Power, and The Dubliners (let's just draw a discreet veil across Lifetime Achievement winner Don McLean, shall we?). It was, in short, a great event. 

The night in part belonged to June Tabor and Oysterband who picked up four awards, winning each of the categories they were nominated in.

Folk singer June was reunited with roots rebels Oysterband after 21 years and their much acclaimed reunion led them to receiving the Best Album Award for Ragged Kingdom, Best Traditional Track for Bonny Bunch of Roses, and Best Group, while June was crowned Folk Singer of the Year. 


Radio 2 Folk Awards

The evening was also a successful one for Tim Edey who picked up two awards – Musician of the Year and, with Brendan Power, the gong for Best Duo.

For the first time the Best Original Song prize was given to two winners, with Bella Hardy’s The Herring Girl and Steve Tilston’s The Reckoning sharing the honours. 21 year-old Lucy Ward was a Young Folk Award Finalist in 2009 and now found herself picking up the Horizon Award, which recognises the achievements of newcomers, for her blend of modern and traditional folk.

The Home Service, whose Live 1986 album was released in 2011 following the discovery of a 25-year old cassette tape in a wardrobe, were named as Best Live Act. That tape was older, in fact, than any member of Ioscaid (pronounced iss-kidge), a six piece band from Northern Ireland, all aged between 18 and 20, who picked up the accolade for Young Folk Award.

Meanwhile, the Good Tradition Award, paying tribute to those who keep traditional folk music alive, went to legendary singer, writer, and activist Ian Campbell (who humbly pointed out that his sons' first album as UB40 sold more than his nineteen hit albums combined!) and Bill Leader, now living near to Middleton and the mastermind behind some of the seminal British folk records of the Sixties and Seventies.

Roots Award winner Malcolm Taylor has never made a record but, as director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society, has been pivotal to the preservation of England's traditional music heritage as well as playing a vital role in its future by helping to inspire young artists with the archive's treasure chest of rare books, documents and music.

That mix of reverence for the tradition with a keen eye on the present and the future is what keeps folk music not just alive but vital. The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards is an invaluable part of that process and we should all be overjoyed that the BBC not only acknowledge that but came here to celebrate it.

Highlights of the Radio 2 Folk Awards will be available for seven days on the BBC Red Button, available by pressing the red button from any BBC TV or radio channel, and on bbc.co.uk/radio2.

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Radio 2 Folk Awards


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Radio 2 Folk Awards

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