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Ian Anderson

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

Welcome to our 400th issue! I’ll just let that sink in for a moment… to me as well as to you! I vacillate between thinking “Crikey, that’s a lot of publication deadlines which, through thick and thin, we’ve managed to hit on time for 37 years 4 months!” and “Maybe if you’d put all those hours into something actually useful like discovering a cure for dementia or winning a bunch of Olympic gold medals, your life might have been better spent than reporting on people twanging things and singing peculiar songs?” But anyway, some nice people have been saying some nice things about the team’s efforts, for which we’re very grateful, and some of them are printed elsewhere this issue. Thank you for sticking with us all these years!

Talking of Gold Medals: not wishing to diminish in the slightest the achievements of all those 67 UK winners (especially as one is actually fRoots family, but the old eyebrows did rise at the widely reported ‘price tag’ of more than £4 million per medal in investment from Lottery funding. Am I making this up, or weren’t we told when the government made a raid on Lottery coffers to support those participating in the London 2012 event that this was a one-off and that other areas – particularly the Arts – would have their funding restored in due course? Well, it doesn’t seem to have happened, does it?

One of the very obvious benefits of all that extra sports funding, much acknowledged by sportists being interviewed after their Rio wins, was that being able to dedicate yourself full time to your chosen skill makes a massive difference to improving performance. Well, exactly the same thing applies to musicians. If they can concentrate on their playing, singing, writing, arranging and gigging without distraction from the need to clock in to an office or factory every day, the benefits are really remarkable. Don’t imagine that being a musician is a cushy thing where you stay in bed all day and then turn up to play for an hour for loadsa money: there are actually years of hard work and dedication involved, not to mention being able to afford top line instruments and equipment (read ‘bicycles’ to continue the sporty analogy).

And the country eventually gets it back through the enormous contribution the music industry makes to the economy and exports, not to mention feel-good factors. Just like sport.

I can hear stick-in-the-muds muttering about how the essence of folk is that it’s amateur, viewing professionalism as a Bad Thing. But there’s room for everything and each variety stands to appeal to somebody. Whether it’s a part-time singer doing a folk club floor spot or Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band going full tilt on a big festival – indeed whether it’s a big, supremely professional festival like Shrewsbury or a determinedly local, small-scale one like Priddy, each as valuable in their own right – the important thing is that there’s a choice of entry points, and something inspirational to aim for. Getting a fairer share of that funding pot can help musicians and musical communities blossom, evolve and thrive and give back so much well-being to this battered country.

Ian Anderson

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