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Ian Anderson
 

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

Soaking in the bath some time in late 2000, I infamously had a lightbulb moment, a wig bubble as my hero Lord Buckley would have put it. I wrote it up as a proposal in proposal-speak, had input from a few friends, most notably the late and ever-generous Charlie Gillett, and winged it over to the head of BBC Radio 3, more in hope than expectation. It was an idea for Awards For World Music, and to my immense amazement and pleasure Radio 3 adopted it virtually as devised, and ran with it for seven years until budgets or enthusiasm ran out (I never did know which).

The first annual award ceremony took place at a London venue and inadvertedly shot itself in the foot by being far too successful to ever match. Taraf De Haidouks had won the Europe category: they’d appeared in a film with Johnny Depp – would he like to present their award? Yes he would, and on the day this became a front page headline on the London Evening Standard. I was asked who I’d like to present the fRoots Critics’ Poll Album Of The Year award which had been incorporated into the scheme. Would there be any chance of Joe Strummer doing it? Yes, he was very happy to. Other personalities queued up: Brian Eno, Channel 4’s intrepid Jon Snow, that man Sanjeev Bhaskar off the telly, and more. At the after-party, Andy Kershaw was having a conversation with Strummer which for a while looked like turning into the long awaited Clash reunion happening in Babylon, covered by Radio 3 and with everybody from Martin Carthy to Eno (and fRoots) on the bus across the desert! Sadly, for all sorts of reasons of politics and mortality, this would never happen.

But there was never any question of quitting the event while we were ahead: the idea of broadening UK audience’s musical education, and helping new artists gain both international recognition and respect back home was too good. So it had a decent run before, perhaps, becoming a bit predictable. And the last thing public-facing musical events need to do is become predictable.

Regular readers of this column – you masochists – can hardly have failed to notice me banging on about predictable festival programming, which is possibly why Alan Bearman asked us to curate our annual series of afternoon concerts as part of Sidmouth Folk Week. They go under the ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ brand of A Cellarful Of Folkadelia (it’s not even in a cellar any more…)

We’re in our fourth season this year, and so far we’ve been blessed. My aim each time has been to put together a good mix of the new, the up-and-coming, the left field, and a few older legends who nevertheless aren’t among your standard festival billage. It’s designed to thrill the less hidebound audience members, put artists in front of them who they might not otherwise see, and hopefully give the newer ones a bit of a leg-up. A live version of a fRoots compilation album.

Every subsequent year I’ve wondered if we can pull off another equally good mix, but thankfully the supply of suitable artists ­hasn’t shown any sign of letting up. Full details on page 50, including an extra evening party event up the hill at the definitely not cellar-like Bulverton. See you there!

Ian Anderson


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