After last year’s event in Salford, at the BBC’s flash new home in Media City, this year’s edition travelled yet further north to Glasgow and Celtic Connections festival. Co-presenters Julie Fowlis and Mark Radcliffe did a great job keeping things on track, with just one winner (Roy Harper, a Lifetime Achiever) veering off-course slightly, taking the opportunity to make a quick dig at Alex Salmond and the Scottish independence campaign.
As usual at this event, there were some cracking live performances but thankfully none that matched last year’s toe-curling embarrassment of Don McLean’s out-of-tune guitar. Scotland’s Treacherous Orchestra, a motley crew of a dozen musicians who have been called ‘the Scottish Bellowhead’ (pictured left with Cerys Matthews, Copyright © BBC) kicked off the evening with a suitably loud and raucous number. In contrast Karine Polwart performed the beautiful ‘King of Birds,’ which she dedicated to the Occupy Movement. Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham were another live highlight and played a lovely tune that seemed to really captivate the whole concert hall.
Guest presenters (unsurprisingly largely Scottish) included Ricky Ross from Deacon Blue, Altered Images’ Claire Grogan, Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, fiddler John McCusker, Green Gartside from Scritti Politti, and first minister for Scotland, Alex Salmond. There were a couple of firsts for the Folk Awards – a footballer (Pat Nevin), an appearance of shorts onstage (Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis) and an Englishman in a kilt (Steve Knightley). Other guests included Martin Carthy, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Martha Wainwright and our very own columnist Cerys Matthews who gave WOMEX in Cardiff a good plug. The sweetest acceptance speech came from the Young Folk Award winners (Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar) who thanked their school for letting them have two days off.
The evening was rounded off very nicely with the much-admired singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean winning a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to songwriting. He was then joined by a whole army of new and previous award winners for a rendition of Scotland’s unofficial anthem, ‘Caledonia’ – an appropriate ending for this very Scottish Folk Awards.
Folk Singer of the Year: Nic Jones
Best Duo: Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman
Best Group: Lau (performance video below)
Best Album: Bellowhead for Broadside
Horizon Award: Blair Dunlop
Roots Award: Billy Bragg
Musician of the Year: Kathryn Tickell
Young Folk Award: Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar
Best Traditional Track: ‘Lord Douglas’ by Jim Moray
Best Original Song: ‘Hatchlings’ by Emily Portman
Lifetime Achievement Awards: Roy Harper, Aly Bain and Dougie MacLean
You can see performances from the night using the BBC’s Red Button. www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/folk