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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Spotlight on England at Celtic Connections

After yesterday's post about the all-party folk arts group at the House of Commons, in which it was suggested that English and Welsh folk music might benefit from having its own high-profile international showcase - like Celtic Connections - I was sent this video by an English folk fan.

Have a look and see what you think. It went up on YouTube a couple of days ago and it's for something called Spotlight England, which involves England being the guest foreigners at Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow this winter. Canada has benefited from the arrangement in the past. Just take a moment to think about that...

There is currently a long list of 24 English folk bands that has been put forward by industry experts, so the final six can be chosen next month by Celtic Connections.

Some points

* It doesn't say anywhere in the video what Spotlight England actually is and there is no mention of Celtic Connections. The video might just about work if it were shown on a screen at Celtic Connections where the context would probably be evident, but why waste public money on something that's fit only for one purpose? Just one mention of Celtic Connections would have been enough for you to get the gist. The first time I watched the video I didn't know what Spotlight England was at the end of it and had to go away and look it up.

* Its point of view appears to be "English folk is not as rubbish as it used to be 10 or 15 years ago, although we don't really know why". The tone of the talking heads is apologetic, not explanatory and you are left with the impression that they are marvelling at England's good fortune at having had Bellowhead and Laura Marling beam down from outer space and that young people have deigned to bestow their favours upon folk bands. No explanation for this is offered. Suggestion: perhaps the music's fabulous? In fact to suggest anything else in a promotional video is beside the point.

*  I've often been left breathless with excitement by English folk music. This video makes the entire enterprise seem dull.

* John Tams' name is spelled wrong.

* Where is Show of Hands on the long list of bands being considered to showcase England to the rest of the world? Are they popular enough to fill the Albert Hall several times over but not popular enough for EFDSS to include on its list of England's top 24 folk bands? How has this happened? To hear that they were unaware of the application process - which will inevitably be the case - is silly and poses more questions than it answers. It doesn't take much to pick up the phone.

* Alan Bearman appears on the list of decision makers here and yet many of the bands he represents appear on the longlist. This is a conflict of interests and undermines the integrity of the process since he stands to gain financially. It's not his fault - you would, wouldn't you? It's the fault of the organisers. And no amount of explanation that Alan Bearman was out of the room at the appropriate moment will cut the mustard, I'm afraid. When public money is being used to market an industry - as it is here - there has to be no discernible corruption. It's axiomatic.

* It's bizarre that English music does not have its own international showcase (I'm told that Wales's national Eisteddfod has an international offshoot), organised to the same professional standards as Celtic Connections. Perhaps one day it will and may summon the self-confidence to invite the Scots to participate as foreigners. I wonder how they'd react to that?

By the way, I've also heard a whisper that the folk awards will be held in Glasgow this time around. Interesting, eh?

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  1. "When public money is being used to market an industry - as it is here - there has to be no discernible corruption. It's axiomatic."
    Here we go again..
    I am so glad that you got in the craw of the folk bizzers over the BBC Folk Awards, to the point where -paranoids that they are- there was fear of a protest on the night.
    In fact, I very much hope you can do the same again with this.
    As you say, it's not exactly their fault that their acts get co-opted, but some of us would say that this is not even remotely the point!

  2. Thanks Strokey Beard. Good to know someone's pleased as lots of the "folk bizzers" I've met since have been amazingly rude to/terrified of me. I've not heard that they're going to release the names of the judges this year, though. So it looks as if I'll have to do the whole thing over again... But with a bit more creativity :-)


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