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'Looking For A New England'... in Texas. Part 1

Mike Harding | 16:31 UK time, Monday, 22 March 2010

Jackie Oates writes:

I am now on an aeroplane, wedged in between my band member Mike Cosgrave and a Texan version of the Fast Show's Bob Fleming ("that's got it") in the midst of an interminably long journey back to the UK following an amazing experience at Austin's SXSW festival.

I can't quite believe that it was only last night that I was sat in Joe's Crab Shack, a big U.S. restaurant chain slightly reminiscent of Pizza Hut, but with big hanging plastic sharks and the waft of crustaceans instead of pizza...
Customers were equipped with a large paper bib and some pliers whilst they worked their way through a bucket of crabs and every hour, staff entertained the diners by standing in the centre of the restaurant and dancing to the Macarena albeit with glazed, embarrassed expressions.

South by South West is the world's biggest music festival, where 1500 unsigned bands and internationally renowned artists from all over the world descend on the many venues scattered densely across Austin. Many gigs are organised into showcases for particular regions or genres; I spent a lot of time at the British Music Embassy venue watching bands from Wales, Yorkshire and Liverpool. Each showcase is heavily marketed and flaunted during the weekend to ensure that as many music lovers, delegates and music industry movers and shakers are there, hopefully to open the door to more opportunities in The States for the artists.

Our showcase, 'Looking For A New England', marked the culmination of months of careful planning, marketing campaigns and funding applications by British Underground, fRoots and Arts Council England. Myself, The Unthanks, Trembling Bells, Jim Moray, Gadarene and Olivia Chaney, along with author Will Hodgkinson, The Magpie's Nest's Sam Lee, and visual artist David Owen, were all involved in the showcase designed to fly the flag for English folk music - with the aim of showing the U.S. music industry the rich wealth of material available and the exciting musical directions being taken by this new generation of folk artists.

To help spread the word, David Owen designed a range of 'Looking For A New England' logos, postcards and badges, fRoots wonderful 'Looking For A New England' CD was handed out in droves, and there was a beautifully designed booklet with articles from Shirley Collins and Will Hogkinson which appeared in every delegate bag.

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