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Radio 2 Folk Awards
The seventh BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards

It's the first week in February; the venue is The Brewery, London; the room is full of familiar faces from the folk scene plus an ample quota of interesting celebs and media pundits ... so it must be the annual BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, when the industry toasts the past year's most prominent artists and releases, raises the profile of the genre and has a good night out into the bargain.

Julie Fowlis
Julie Fowlis
As folk music gathers ever more media interest, the Awards offer an opportunity for its rising stars to gain wider exposure. Horizon Award winner Julie Fowlis, relatively unknown outside her native Scotland, won many new fans with her breathtaking set of Gaelic song and music, and will surely be a major face of the future.

For the second time in three years John Spiers and Jon Boden took the prize for Duo Of The Year, considerately making the briefest of thanks to offset presenter Frank Skinner's genially rambling melodeon jokes and finger-in-the-ear song parodies. A seasoned festival-goer, Skinner is typical of presenters chosen for their links to the music. The choice of a senior civil liberties appeal court judge to present Flook with Group of the Year might appear initially arbitrary - but Sir Stephen Sedley once lent his guitar to a young Bob Dylan at the legendary Troubadour Club and compiled the seminal songbook The Seeds Of Love in 1967; this contrast of style and background reflects the diversity of the folk music scene and its performers.

Chris Wood & Hugh Lupton
Chris Wood & Hugh Lupton
Singer Eliza Carthy presented this year's award for Best Original Song to Chris Wood and Hugh Lupton for One In A Million, their epic modern-day ballad set in a chip-shop, while documentary comedian and writer Dave Gorman recalled Irish session lock-ins in Longsight, as he awarded Michael McGoldrick the Musician of the Year award. Comedian Ade Edmondson revealed his early love of folk music before turning to "the dark side" of punk, and his discovery of the "sublime voice" of Kate Rusby first encountered at Sheffield City Hall during a 'Bottom Live' tour. A fan ever since, he clearly enjoyed presenting Kate with the Best Live Act award for 2006.

Awards are given each year to artists deemed to be outstanding in the field of folk music, and two Lifetime Achievement trophies were presented for 2006. Veteran singer-songwriter Paul Brady received the first of the evening from ex-Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey, who appealed for feedback regarding the recent change in licensing laws in his role of Chairman of the Government's Live Music Forum. Later, Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler reminisced at length before presenting Richard Thompson with his Lifetime Achievement trophy: the ace songwriter/guitarist contributed an amusing award ceremony story concerning erstwhile label-mate Frank Sinatra, before taking the stage for an acoustic performance which perfectly illustrated his stark, poetic songwriting skills.

The Good Tradition Award went this year to The Guv'nor, Ashley Hutchings: actor and recording collaborator Sylvester McCoy catalogued his history and celebrated Hutchings' unparalleled role as catalyst in the folk-rock movement. Della Hook of the Red Lion Folk Club, Birmingham received the Folk Club of the Year award from club veteran and top guitarist Martin Simpson and underlined the important role folk clubs play in providing a platform for young unknowns as well as seasoned performers.

John Tams
John Tams
As ever, superb live performances interspersed the award-giving: electrifying sets from Michael McGoldrick Band and Flook; Idlewild's Roddy Woomble added his own plaintive vocals to a poignant No Names from the Kate Rusby Band; and, from John Tams and Barry Coope, a tantalising taster of newly-composed songs from the forthcoming 2006 BBC Radio Ballads series due to start on Radio 2 later this month.

John Tams proved man of the night, taking three of the five awards for which he was nominated. It's not surprising that a perfomer of his calibre should number among his friends some of the creative industry's brightest stars, and it was a treat to hear Shakespearean actor Charles Dance speak of the respect he had for Tams, as he presented the award for Best Traditional Track; popular artist Jack Vettriano 'revealed' his famous Singing Butler's mysterious song (Donald Where's Your Troosers?) before presenting the Best Album award. It was Bob Hoskins though, at whose wedding Tams had sung, who spoke the evening's most patently heartfelt words. "Voices have the power to heal," he said, calling Tams' work "older than Stonehenge but fresher than a morning daisy".

Georgia Lucas
Georgia Lucas
The public vote for 2006 was Most Influential Folk Album Of All Time, and the result - Fairport Convention's Liege and Lief - came as no surprise to many but provided a heart-stopping climax to this year's Awards. Georgia Lucas, the daughter of the late Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas, had flown from Australia to accept the award on behalf of her mother; then the 1969 line-up, with the superb Chris While taking Sandy's vocal, performed the album track Matty Groves. To hear Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Dave Mattacks and a much-recovered Dave Swarbrick recreate the sound and spirit of that legendary song was a unique moment. And the finale, a massed Fairport and Friends rendering of Richard Thompson's anthemic Meet On The Ledge, brought a tear to not a few eyes and an end to the 2006 BBC Folk Awards that'll be hard to top next year.

You can listen to the show on Wednesday 8th February from 7-9pm on Radio 2 and for the following week on Listen Again.

  Folk Awards Home
  The Winners
  Live Photo Galleries 2005
  About the Awards
  Folk Awards 2005
  Previous Winners
  Young Folk Award
  Folk and Acoustic Home

An impeccable selection of the best in folk, roots and acoustic music.
Mike Harding
BBC Music Folk & Country

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