The Radio 2 BBC Folk Awards which were held at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre was a great night for folk music, an unforgettable experience and probably the best overall BBC Folk Awards yet. It was one that was both uplifting and emotional. Whilst the emotional moments was unexpected there was plenty to celebrate, not just over the great line-up of nominees in this year’s awards but also that it was held in Wales for the very first time.
From the moment I’d arrived at the Millennium Centre the sun was shining and there was plenty of familiar faces gathered outside on the terrace taking in the sun and catching up with each other. Of the artists, the nominees were all putting on brave faces as they checked their watches to the big countdown and moment of truth.
To celebrate it being in Cardiff there was a great pre-show of Welsh musical talent which took place in the huge foyer that included performances from The Gentle Good who has featured regularly on FRUK, Plu, Dan Bettridge and Kizzy Crawford with a post-show slot for Calan.
Inside the actual theatre the BBC and Smooth Ops had created a wonderful stage set, wooden cargo crates and industrial lights formed the simple props which were so effective throughout the evening allowing the production team to create atmosphere and work their magic with lighting and projection.
It proved to be a special night for many and I almost put it down to my own heightened spirits if it weren’t for hearing the same from others I spoke to after the show. There was a definite celebratory air and a lot of positive feeling, something which heightened the whole occasion for many.
Like all awards there was particular highlights and talking points. For me it was one of the most emotional events I’ve attended although the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards had it’s fair share at the end of last year. One of the most moving moments was during The Good Tradition award which brought many to tears as Cerys Matthews told the story of the late Meredydd Evans, singer, song collector and historian. Images and video of the great man were projected onto the stage leaving you with no doubt that he had led a very fulfilled life and a legacy to match, he was clearly immensely passionate about Welsh music and its history. Just before his daughter Eluned came up on stage to collect the award Cerys told everyone that Meredydd knew he was going to receive the award before he died. You can imagine the emotions running throughout the theatre. Eluned stood proud after accepting the award and asked that funding be raised to create an online digital archive for Welsh music and gave the deadline of 2017 as being completely achievable. She set the challenge there and then, her father would have been proud of her. 10 Mewn Bws (An innovative folk music project we brought you news of last year) topped it all when they took to the stage to perform one of Meredydd’s songs.
This wasn’t to be the only emotional highlight. The final performance was 9Bach performing Ffarwell with the Penrhyn Male Voice Choir who also feature on the album Tincian which picked up Best Album on the night. It’s taken from a book of local songs collected by Ieuan Wyn and is about a quarry man leaving the quarry for the last time. During the performance images of the workers were projected behind them. It was a powerful performance and a great finale.
Another fine performance after the induction of Ewan MacColl into its Hall of Fame was when Guy Garvey took to the stage with Ewan’s sons Calum and Neill MacColl to perform The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, a song he wrote about Peggy Seeger who was also there on the night, with Calum, to pick up Best Original Song for Swim To The Star.
I was going to leave this next bit to last but I’d like to end on a positive note as overall the night was fantastic. I’d be doing a dis-service to the artists if I didn’t mention this as it did stick out like a sore thumb. For some strange reason The Rails, although newcomers, had been nominated in the Horizon Award which they won on the night. Historically this is seen as an award to expose and help an artist, not one that’s already backed by the largest music corporation in the world.
This isn’t a criticism of The Rails (we love the album), it’s a criticism of the decision to enter them in a category against Ange Hardy, Maz O’Connor and Stick In The Wheel. The latter three artists are all on small budgets, a genuine struggle when you’re trying to get your name out there. They are also all on small independent labels and The Rails are on the giant Island / Universal label. The people responsible, whoever they are, did nobody any favours here. It was blatantly wrong.
But back to positives…there was of course plenty of fun as well. Loudon Wainwright III, who also picked up a Lifetime Achievement award, gave one of the funniest speeches (The Young’uns and Nancy Kerr did equally well in the great humour stakes) and performances.
One of the most talked about moments of the night has to be the length of David Gray’s introduction speech for the Lifetime Achievement awards for Yusuf / Cat Stevens. It was more akin to a short novel than an introduction which must have caused some panic amongst the production team as the News and Weather dropped off the BBC schedule. After a short interval part two was well underway but not before Mark Radcliffe heckled a bunch of people to take their seats, one of whom turned out to be Billy Bragg.
Unlike previous years guest presenters this time around (apart from David Gray) did really well. Ruth Jones took to the stage as Nessa from Gavin & Stacey and was sharp. She turned into a star celebrity post-show with the most requests for photos. Guardian columnist, member of Police Dog Hhogan and author of How to Be a Husband – Tim Dowling also did a grand job proving to be a real natural. Take note future presenters.
There was plenty more to celebrate as FRUK favourites Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker picked up Best Duo and provided us with one of the best performances of the night:
There were many great wins and some extra loud cheers for the likes of Sam Sweeney who won Musician of the Year, he took the night off from Bellowhead to be there, The Young’uns who won Best Group and Nancy Kerr winning Folk Singer of the Year. The latter two gave some of the funniest acceptance speeches and whilst I expected some comedy from The Young’uns, Nancy proved to also have a brilliant wit as well.
The Gloaming appeared in three nominations and on the night picked up Best Traditional Song which was accepted by Iarla Ó Lionáird. This was an album that we gave a lot of exposure and support to on FRUK and I’ll admit that pride was heightened when post-show Iarla admitted he listened to Folk Radio UK every day when he was at home. What a star!
The Young Folk Award nominees were very strong again this year with Talisk picking up the win but make sure you check them all: Cup O’Joe, Roseanne Reid and Wildwood Kin. They all appear on the BBC Folk Awards 2015 Double CD along with all the nominees and winners.
In conclusion, it was great night for Folk Music and Wales!
Watch it on the BBC Red Button or here.
BBC RADIO 2 FOLK AWARD WINNERS
Folk Singer of the Year
Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker (read our review of Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour)
The Young’Uns (read our review of Never Forget)
Tincian – 9Bach
The Rails (read our review of Fair Warning)
Musician of the Year
Sam Sweeney (read about Made in the Great War)
Best Original Song
Swim To The Star – Peggy Seeger/Calum MacColl (performed by Peggy Seeger)
Best Traditional Track
Samhradh Samhradh – The Gloaming
BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award
BBC Folk Awards 2015 (2CD)
Don’t miss the Double CD Proper Music Distribution featuring 27 tracks including the Young Folk Award Nominees.