So this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards were the first to be made open to the public and the choice of venue was The Lowry in Salford. The choice of venue had its plus and minus points. It felt a very different affair compared to previous years, not helped by the formal seating arrangement of the theatre. It was also disappointing that they didn’t choose to film the Young Folk Awards and instead had Mark Radcliffe doing the best he could whilst they transmitted footage of even emptier seats during the 25 minute break for the bar.
The plus point of the venue was that they could open it to the public for the first time.
The live performances on the night included Seth Lakeman, Tim Edy and Brendan Power, The Unthanks and the Brighouse and Rastrick Band, Martin Simpson, Chrsty Moore, June Tabor and Don McLean and The Dubliners who both received Lifetime Achievment Awards.
Martin Simpson opened the award to his footstompin’ Lakes of Ponchatrain from his Purpose and Grace album (review here). In terms of the biggst exposure on the night June Tabor and the Oysterband took three awards and June also received Folksinger of the Year Award.
The evening had more than a few emotional moments particularly for the Awards given to Bill Leader, Ian Campbell and The Dubliners.
For those that just want the short version, the winners are in bold:
FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR
Tim Edey & Brendan Power
Jonny Kearney & Lucy Farrell
Spiers & Boden
Marry Waterson & Oliver Knight
The Home Service
June Tabor & Oysterband
Last – The Unthanks
Purpose & Grace – Martin Simpson
Ragged Kingdom – June Tabor & Oysterband
Saturnine – Jackie Oates
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
The Herring Girl – Bella Hardy
Last – Adrian McNally (performed by The Unthanks)
On Morecambe Bay – Kevin Littlewood (performed by Christy Moore)
The Reckoning – Steve Tilston
BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK
Bonny Bunch of Roses – June Tabor & Oysterband
Lakes of Ponchartrain – Martin Simpson
Maids When You’re Young – Lucy Ward
Sweet Lover of Mine – Emily Smith
MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
BEST LIVE ACT
The Home Service
BBC RADIO 2 YOUNG FOLK AWARD
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
GOOD TRADITION AWARD
GOOD TRADITION AWARD
And so for the longer version of the night:
Best Duo: Tim Edey and Brendan Power
The best Duo award went to Tim Edey and Brendan Power thanks to their Wriggle and Writhe album.
“Two blokes at the top of their mark: one of the world’s best melodeon players and one of the world’s best mouth organ players. An album absolutely chock full of totally brilliant music. I tell you, get it! It’s brilliant!” Mike Harding
Horizon Award: Lucy Ward
This was presented by Badly Drawn Boy…Damon Gough who had a lot of praise for the late Bert Jansch before presenting the award to Lucy Ward for Adelphi has to Fly.
Seth Lakeman then took to the stage to play Blacksmiths Prayer taken from his latest album Tales from the Barrel House.
Musician of the Year: Tim Edey
Cathy Jordan of Dervish presented the award to Tim. Taking to the stage for a second time led him to ask the audience “has anyone got a shot of valium? This was a real surprise…”. He was also mighty pleased it was Cathy Jordan presenting having worked with her in the past.
Best Live Act: The Home Service
Jon Tams took the award and announced that The Home Service are going to have another crack at it…he dedicated the ward to Howard Evans (1944-2006) who played with Homeservice as well as Brass Monkey..the pre-cursors to Bellowhead. Jon also paid tribute to the fact that Howard was also a strong Trade Unionist.
Roots Award: Malcolm Taylor
After a set by Tim Edy and Brendan Power, Billy Elliot playwright Lee Hall presented the Roots Award to a librarian. No ordinary librarian…Malcolm Taylor is the Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial (VWML) Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society. The man was clearly humbled by the award and menioned that “climbing Skiddaw is easier than standing up here”.
The Unthanks – King of Rome
Best Tradtional Track: June Tabor and The Oysterband
Comedian Jeremy Hardy presented the Best Tradtional Track Award to June Tabor and The Oysterband for Bonny bunch of roses which our reviewer Neil described as ‘galloping from the speakers like a messenger from the battlefield’ in his review of Ragged Kingdom back in September.
Lifetime Achievement Award – Don McLean
Paul Gambaccini presneted this award to Don McLean who went down a storm at Glastonbury last year. He went on to play ‘And I Love You So’, unfortunately his guitar was slightly out of tune…so not the best of starts but he made up for it on his second more upbeat (and with re-tuned guitar) ‘Homeless Brother’.
Young Folk Award: Ioscaid
It was after this performance that the awards went on hold for 25 minutes and Mark Radcliffe took over to present the nominees for the Young Folk Award.
Mark Radcliffe was in the Compass Room which was not televised, a real shame as it would have beaten looking at a half empty theatre!
Ioscaid performed Close Shave, a song learnt from Andy Irvine.
Blair Dunlop: sang a great song called Blight and Blossom which was based on a poem by Louis MacNeice…best performance I’ve heard so far.
Sunjay Brayne performed a poignant modern day song called Street Riot.
Graham Mackenzie performed a tune called Kitcheners Army followed by a set of reels…..
The Lovely Julie Fowlis joined Mike again to present the second half which was kicked off by The Unthanks and the Brighouse and Rastrick Band performing an arrangement by Adrian McNally.
Good Traditon Award: Bill Leader
Mike Harding showed his heart when introducing this award which was presented by Christy Moore to Bill Leader. This was not surprising as it was Bill that was personally responsible for revolutionising what was then a monopoly by the big labels. Read more about Bill Leader in our artcle here.
It was great that he was recieving this award and Christy gave a fine presentation, recalling the time that Bill recorded the first Planxty album and how he remembered Bill’s kindness and patience…a lot of drink was consumed he joked.
Bill was charming and joked: “It’s great when your name’s is in the frame..especially when it in a zimmer…”. It did get me wondering as to why these type of awards are left so late on in life and Bill also mentioned another great pioneer who is yet to recognised: Reg Hall…he ended with ‘his day will come’…ever the gentleman.
Best Album: June tabor and The Oysterband – Ragged Kingdom
The Best Album award was presented by Robin Denselow…the bus jokes were soon to come as June and the gang ascended the stage yet again…
Best Group: June tabor and The Oysterband
Christy Moore performed a deeply moving song called On Morecommbe Bay which was written by Kevin Littlewood. Steve Knightly presented the award to June and the Oysterband and gave a very good introductory speech which really did set the scene for those that may not have been aware of their history.
The band mentioned that Rolling Stone Magazine had said that June and the band were a match made in heaven…he quipped ‘they had not been at the planning meetings’.
Good Tradition Award: Ian Campbell
The Good Tradition Award was presented to Ian Campbell by Stuart Marconie…Stuart gave a great insight to Ian from another angle altogether. That of a working class political fighter. Ian was an active communist and even had his phone tapped by Special Branch…not the sort of thing you tend to hear about…
I again felt this was another late award…but better late than never as they say. He jokingly explained to the audience that they probably didn’t know who he was, this was a slight tongue in cheek reference to his sons the Campbell brothers who shot to fame as UB40 and whose top ten single outsold all of his 19 albums.
Best Original Song The Herring Girl – Bella Hardy / The Reckoning – Steve Tilston
Best Original Song category made history as there was a 50/50 split by the judges resulting in both Steve Tilston and Bella Hardy picking up an award. I love Steve Tilston’s work and it was great to see him get this award as he is often overlooked which he did joke about in his reference to wind erosion from standing still.
Folksinger of the year: June Tabor
June Tabor gave a lovely touching speech and mentioned that she had intended to learn an instrument but never had the ability to co-ordinate the left and right hand. She also explained that this award was not just for her…she was always part of a team, whether that was with the Oysterband, Andy Cutting or Martin Simpson (with whom she played for ten years and released a great classic: A Cut Above in 1980 on Topic). She also gave a big nod to Topic Records who got several mentions on the night.
Lifetime Achievment Award: The Dubliners
The final Lifetime Achievment Award was presented by Ralph McTell who read a letter from the Irish President which served to show that The Dubliners were more than just a folk group, they were a national emblem.
The evening finished with the Dubliners performing two songs: Dirty Old Town and Whiskey in the Jar….
And that is it for another year…
You can catch highlights of the night from 9pm on Thursday 9th Feb on the BBC red Button service.