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Ian Anderson
Photo: Judith Burrows

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

Well that was a good summer, was it not? Everybody we spoke to thought that this year’s Womad may have been the best ever. It deservedly sold out at the much bigger Charlton Park site for the first time since outgrowing Reading and with virtually no mainstream acts on the bill. Considering that most of the audience probably hadn’t heard of most of the people on the bill, that’s one in the ear for “can’t take risks” conservative policies at other events (and big credit to long-time booker Paula Henderson for building that trust with the regulars). Big spread and report next issue.

Sidmouth’s 60th – see Judith Burrows’ photo spread that starts on page 34 this month – was a good one too. If anybody doubts the youthful energy coursing through the folk world, they only have to be in the tent when they announce the winners of the annual morris jig competition, with the favourites getting the sort of reception usually afforded to boy bands. And although I was only able to get to the 50th Towersey for a few hours on the Saturday afternoon, it also seemed absolutely rammed and was apparently about to sell out too.

Due to a family crisis I was only able to get to one other festival this year, but that was a nice discovery. The small but, as they say, perfectly formed Priddy Folk Festival in the Mendips had started after I left the West Country, and although I’ve been back in Bristol for three years it took me until this July to get there, now kicking myself for not having followed local advice and gone before. The twin attractions of Three Cane Whale and Gadarene persuaded me over and I loved it immediately, even more so when one of the organisers said “well, we could book Bellowhead, Show Of Hands or Seth Lakeman but then we’d be the same as all the other festivals and anyway we don’t want to get any bigger.” How refreshing is that?

There was massive excitement across the social meeja when people woke up one morning to hear English folk blues legend Wizz Jones being fêted on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, followed by a celebrity profile in the Independent. He may be the most self-effacing of curmudgeons and a musician’s musician, but it’s criminal that a man who is still performing at peak at the age of 75 (after starting off in 1957!) is still always the page boy - well, he’d never make a convincing bridesmaid.

He has been acknowledged as an influence by Bert Jansch, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, John Renbourn, Martin Carthy, Ralph McTell, Michael Chapman, Rod Stewart, Steve Tilston and many more, and recently had his When I Leave Berlin covered live by Bruce Springsteen (it’s on YouTube). Surely it’s about time that BBC Radio 2’s folk constabulary gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award? Indeed, rumour reaches us that one previously honoured has threatened to give his back if they don’t! Yes there are other deserving candidates too, but few who’ve been on the road so long.

Ian Anderson

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