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Ian Anderson
 

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

The clock whirrs round and this issue completes another year of publishing – our 37th. But I urge you to read our appeal for support though: it has never been easy and we really do need your help.

In many ways this issue typifies why fRoots is so unique and important. You’ve probably never heard the people on the cover (or quite a few of the other artists included). Yet their music is wonderful and many will be grateful for discovering it. Their story is fascinating and, like the music, surely inspiring. At a time when we’re being asked to become isolated from Europe, it’s a great reminder of the many cultural riches we share with kindred spirit neighbours who – like us – value their own folk traditions yet also have open, questing minds.

You’d be hard put to find this sort of thing anywhere else. fRoots has surely given more space, whether in its short Root Salad introductions or full length and cover features, to less known but truly deserving folk, roots and world music artists than any other magazine by far. I remember being impressed by a quote from the editor of the US magazine Living Blues that it was “basically an ongoing oral history project. We let the artists speak about their experience. We’re documenting something that, in a lot of cases, is overlooked and not documented in other places.” That’s pretty much what fRoots has done throughout its 37 years, whether it’s new or veteran English folkies or the equivalent artists from diverse cultures worldwide. I believe what we do is truly important and that the whole scene would have been much poorer without it. But only you can be the judge of that.

Recently I was browsing old gig diaries, remembering the realities of a folk/blues career in the mid ’70s. Most of March, April and May 1976 was spent in Belgium, Holland and Germany. That was already our third trip across on the Dover/ Ostend ferry that year, and there were three more to come. Of our gigs that year, 40 percent were in Europe and another 30 percent were in UK colleges. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that English folk clubs decided we were OK again, having been through the comedians-v-ultratrad wars where we’d fallen down the hole in the middle.

Looking back at that time: those were the ‘punk years’. There’s now a massive Lottery-funded celebration of ’76 called Punk London. But that was when the folk scene managed to lose a generation by turning inwards. I remember us playing a folk club, seeing the door open mid-song and a bunch of teenagers with punk haircuts peer in, apparently intrigued. Before we’d even finished the song, the organiser had already shooed them away – they clearly weren’t ‘our sort’, in the folk club’s view.

The net result was that it was well over a decade before a new generation began to get involved, and by then the age gulf between the existing audience and newcomers was too great to ever really bridge. The latter went to other venues – it was the time of huge growth of festivals and arts centres. Who knows how many potentially great musicians we lost.

That’s what fRoots is for: to keep doors and minds open.

Ian Anderson


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