John Leonard, Producer of The Mike Harding Show, explains how the awards are chosen and why they are important.
The BBC Folk Awards event was started in 1999 as a way of celebrating the past year's achievements in the folk music world. It was seen as an opportunity to get artists and folk industry pundits together and say thank you for their work over the previous twelve months. It was also seen as a chance to showcase to the mainstream media just some of the artists and albums that we, the people who work in folk music, have been particularly proud of during the year.
The awards themselves are voted for by a panel of around 150 broadcasters, folk journalists, festival organisers, agents, promoters etc; people whose job it is to make judgement of one sort or another about folk music during their daily work. I have never asked musicians to vote because I think it is their role to make the music and other people's to judge. The voting is in two stages: the first round is open and the panel can vote for anyone they like in each of the designated categories. These votes are collated and the top four artists in each category declared as nominees. The same panel is then asked to vote again on this shortlist to choose an award winner in each category.
The Folk Awards are an occasion to celebrate the music and thank the people who bring it to us, generally for little reward, and a wonderful opportunity to publicise folk music to people who may not normally hear it.
Sometimes many of us who deal with folk music every day can forget how little it is known and appreciated outside the folk scene. The Folk Awards gives an opportunity to broaden the knowledge of some journalists and hopefully bring new people into the fold. Each year over 60 journalists attend the Awards and I'm delighted to say that many hundreds of column inches - so far all positive - have been written about the event and the music it celebrates.
We constantly aim to improve the Folk Awards, to maintain its credibility and increase its impact and are always willing to debate any aspect of the event with a view to improvement.