The Imagined Village brought folk well and truly into the modern age at the 2008 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. With a colossal backbeat of Indian drums and percussion led by Johnny Kalsi, a Copper Family chorus half-a-dozen strong, and massed musicians including Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy and Chris Wood drove the song on.
Under the guidance of musical director Simon Emmerson, the 200 year old song ‘Cold Haily Raily Night’ was a powerful and spectacular opener for the ninth Folk Awards show, a night of great musical moments and meetings.
Hollywood star Sean Bean presented his old friend John Tams and Tams' musical partner Barry Coope with Best Duo, and Martin Simpson assembled an all-star cast of Danny Thompson on bass, Kate Rusby on vocals and Andy Cutting on accordion for 'Never Any Good', which was voted Best Original Song. Martin later collected Best Album for Prodigal Son.
Andy Cutting himself received a standing ovation as Led Zeppelin’s legendary John Paul Jones announced him Musician of the Year.
Former Blur guitarist Graham Coxon presented Shirley Collins with the Good Tradition Award for her exceptional contribution to folk music, then took the stage to perform a sensitive Just As The Tide Was Flowing as tribute. Radio 2's Bob Harris presented The Imagined Village with the award for Best Traditional Track for their version of 'Cold Haily Rainy Night' and Magic Numbers frontman Romeo Stodart confirmed Bellowhead as folk’s Best Live Act for the second year running.
The hotly tipped quintet Rachel Unthank & The Winterset capped a great year by picking up the Horizon Award as best emerging artist and soothed the hall with their haunting 'Felton Lonnin'. Long-time folk fan and national treasure Brenda Blethyn presented Lau with the award for Best Group, and Martin Green, Kris Drever and Aidan O'Rourke turned in a high energy performance to show exactly why they deserved it.
After filling the hall with her beautifully evocative Gaelic songs, Julie Fowlis had barely left the stage before a wonderfully enthusiastic KT Tunstall announced her as Folk Singer of the Year.
The climax of the night was the Lifetime Achievement Award to John Martyn, presented by long standing friend Phil Collins. "At last I’m a celebrity," joked the Scotsman as he and his superb band – with John Paul Jones on mandolin – kicked into Over The Hill and an amazing version of May You Never, greeted with rapturous applause from the hall which had the big man, and many others, beaming.