As industry folk and, for the first time, members of the public took to their seats in The Lyric theatre at the Lowry, there was some speculation about which celebs would be gracing the stage to present the dozen or so awards this year. It’s the first time the event has been held outside of the capital and the Lowry is within spitting distance of the BBC’s new northern home at Media City, on the quayside of Salford. It came as not much of a surprise that the first presenters were from Manchester’s long-running ITV soap, Corrie. It also seemed fitting that The Dubliners would round off the evening with ‘Dirty Old Town’, written by Salford’s finest singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl. Ralph McTell, who presented The Dubliners with their Lifetime Achievement Award, perfectly summed up their long-lasting appeal, saying that there was “a brightness and boisterousness to their music.”
There were a handful of truly memorable live performances – some for all the right reasons, namely The Unthanks singing with The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band from West Yorkshire, who did a wonderfully evocative rendition of a song about a Derbyshire pigeon fancier. Then there was the excruciating moment when the collective cringing of the audience listening to Don McLean’s badly out of tune guitar was almost palpable. Fortunately McLean, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award, pulled his reputation back from the brink with a second and more in tune song.
Other favourite musical highlights were Christy Moore and Declan Sinnott playing Kevin Littlewood’s nominated Best Original Song, ‘On Morecambe Bay,’ about the tragic plight of immigrant cockle pickers. And Best Duo winners Brendan Power and Tim Edey (who also won Musician of the Year), who I’m ashamed to say have so far been overlooked by Songlines.
And the other winners? Well, the night definitely belonged to June Tabor and Oysterband who collectively won Folk Singer of the Year, Best Album, Best Group and Best Traditional Track. It seemed to be a celebration of the veterans and more mature artists within the current scene, with the recently reformed The Home Service winning Best Live Act. The Songlines office verdict was that this award should have been a shoo-in for Bellowhead, what with their impressively energetic festival shows and seemingly never-ending tour schedule last year.
So it was a relief to see relative youngster Bella Hardy jointly winning the Best Original Song award with Steve Tilston. And of course, the Horizon Award which went to Derby’s Lucy Ward and the Young Folk Award going to the Irish group Ioscaid (apparently pronounced Iss-Kidge) – we look forward to checking these guys out live and also to their debut album.
So, despite the swish new location, a new co-presenter for Mike Harding, Julie Fowlis, who brought a good dose of glamour to the stage, plus some recognition for a handful of new, young names, the evening very much had a ‘tried and tested’ formula about it. Perhaps it’s time to shake up the awards event even more and have an overhaul on the voting and selection process?
You can check out all of the performances (and do your own cringing to ‘And I Love You So’) by visiting the BBC website: