The Radio 2 Folk Awards are chosen and voted for by a panel of professionals (broadcasters, promoters, festival organisers and record companies) who all work in the world of folk, acoustic and roots music. These people (now in their hundreds) are asked to nominate and vote for the people that they consider to have produced and performed the most outstanding work during the past 12 months.
For folking.com the 2002 Folk Awards was a haven for such music. It not only celebrated the pioneers of the genre but also gave birth to something very special, a new energised passion for the music and a new set of ambassadors for the tradition.
Many of the artists that pioneered the folk-culture movement in the early “noughties” were in the room on the night of 11 February 2002. There were performances from Eliza Carthy and Cerys Matthews. “The Barnsley Nightingale,” Kate Rusby, performed “Who Will Sing Me Lullabies” which she had written for the late, great singer-songwriter Davy Steel. Martin Simpson’s “The Bramble Briar”, (in my opinion one of the greatest folk albums of all time), was awarded “Best Album”. Arguably the greatest ambassador of the tradition, Martin Carthy, was awarded “Folk Singer of the Year” and the icing on the cake was having him accompany Martin Simpson on his live version of the much-missed Cyril Tawney’s classic “Sammy’s Bar”. The award for Best Group was such a close run thing that year, that either Show of Hands, Old Blind Dogs or Tarras could have pipped Cherish the Ladies to the number-one spot post. The “Guv’nor,” Ashley Hutchings, presented Nettlebed Folk Club with the “Good Tradition Award and Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull presented the “fabulous, fruity, funky, fecund, Fairport 5” Fairport Convention, with a “Lifetime Achievement Award”. Best Live Act went to the rambling, constantly-touring inspiration that is Rory McLeod.
Willy Russell presented Ralph McTell, (in my view, one of the finest singer-song writer of all time), with the second of the night’s “Lifetime Achievement Award”. Jim Moir, the man that cared enough to put the money and passion behind the Folk Awards idea in the first place and the man that presided over the format and programming of Radio 2 at the turn of the century to make it the most listened to Radio Show in the country, awarded The Chieftains “Irelands Musical Ambassadors” with, the third of the night’s “Lifetime Achievement Award”. I clearly remember the first words Jim said when he came out on stage “What an evening”. It certainly was Jim!
Out of all of the live acts mentioned above, any of them could have been chosen as a classic performance. However, I have chosen Cara Dillon’s “Black is the Colour” as my favourite of the night.
For folking.com, this performance represented the beginning of this exciting new change in folk music, as it was the first time in years that a folk artist and a traditional folk song were taking pride of place on the Radio 2 playlist. Johnny Walker, who presented Cara with the award for “Best Traditional Track”, summed it up perfectly by saying that “Cara had the courage to resist corporate pressure to commercialise her music and change it to try and get it to a wider audience and instead the audience has come to her”. This was an important point which could be cited as one of the fundamental reasons why the music is so strong today. A certain pre-Mercury Music prize nominee, Seth Lakemen (now truly an ambassador in his own right), accompanied Cara on backing vocals. The whole piece was woven together beautifully by the piano arrangements written and performed by Seth’s brother, Sam Lakeman. Darren Beech – June 2011