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Writer's Guidelines

Guidelines for Contributors

Where we are, and what we are

Although the Living Tradition started its life in Scotland - something which we're proud of - it's now moved into England and Ireland, with an office in Donegal. This gives us a much better coverage of the country. We're here to support, promote and cherish the folk music traditions of these islands in totality. Because of that, we welcome contributions from all around Britain and Ireland and even from overseas, wherever the music is being played.

What we're about

Basically, we want to enthuse and inform people about folk and traditional music. (Incidentally, we also deal other traditional arts like dance, customs, games, and storytelling). With this in mind, then, we don't simply want to preach to the converted and we certainly don't want a magazine that's full of in-references and folkie-talk that would baffle somebody new to the scene, either. Living Tradition is inclusive, and that has to be reflected in how it's written.

This isn't to say that we only want easy, non-challenging material: we don't. Some issues are complicated, some are potentially divisive, but we don't run away from these, as our articles and letter pages occasionally show... We actually think we have a responsibility to either say what needs saying or to give a platform to others to do the same, even if we don't necessarily agree with their particular angle. All we ask of them (and it's what we ask of ourselves) is that views should be expressed fairly and courteously, with the 'plus side' of things properly acknowledged.

We want contributions which explore a musician's or band's or organisation's work in a serious way. That doesn't mean we don't like light or jokey writing - we do! By 'serious' we don't imply heavyweight scholarship, although obviously, facts, names, and so on have to be right: we respect this music, after all, and respect its practitioners accordingly. We don't want anything with footnotes. We're not keen on mere 'advertorial', articles which are simply plugging something. We will give publicity to musicians, naturally, but in the proper way through our news section, adverts etc. Regarding the type of work people are welcome to submit, it roughly breaks down into news, reviews and features. Whatever the work at issue, it's worth talking to us first.

News items

We want information on: new festivals, births/marriages/deaths, workshops coming up, traditional music on air/on the electronic media, the club circuit, new publications (with ISBN numbers if possible), innovations in instrument manufacture/amplification systems and so on. We won't guarantee to use everything and we may have to edit (news items are shorter and can be between 100 and 600 words).

Reviews - recordings

These should be around 250 words maximum and should always include the name of the recording company and the catalogue number. We'll actually commission the review and send out the CD in question. If you are interested in joining our review panel, send an email to the editor at editor@livingtradition.co.uk.

We don't review unsolicited demo tapes, CDs without final print (white albums) or EPs; one reason for this is the sheer volume of recordings sent to us, about 20 per week. We don't want track-by-track accounts, although mention of the odd very good (or very bad) track is fine, provided there's an explanation of why it's good or bad. We want to hear overall impressions of the recording, including things like the quality of the album notes. We need the album put in context, too, but that shouldn't involve being told more about the artist than about the actual work itself. Lastly, if fulsome praise is deserved it should obviously be given - although outright condemnation is a bit more dodgy...

Reviews - live events

Nowadays, there are potentially huge numbers of live events to review, including entire festivals. We simply can't cover many of them, for space reasons. (Also, before anybody writes a live event review, it's always worth checking with us that somebody else isn't already doing it). Rather than run-of-the-mill events, however good, we'd prefer to hear about the unusual: the concert with an exotic mix of performers, the unexpected venue, the long-awaited Benefit Night and so on. (We'll still do the 'ordinary' gigs when we can, though). Rather than a blow by blow account of who played what and in what order, we prefer a more general description of the event. Scene-setting is vital for keeping up the interest - what sort of a crowd was there, the atmosphere, the organisation, the highs and lows - all the elements, in short, that make for something truly memorable. Around 650 words would be the maximum for a normal live review, but these can be extended into a fuller feature if suitable - discuss this with the editor first though.

Features

A typical feature would be between 1500 and 3000 words, but for features which really can't be covered within this length, we have at times split articles into two or more parts or published longer features. It could be an interview with a performer (but preferably not in a question-and-answer format), an historical piece, an analysis of a player's style (favourite guitar tunings etc), an issue (lack of teaching of traditional music in schools etc) or whatever. Before starting on a feature, it's best to contact us to see if we're interested: it could be a great idea, except that something similar has been done lately. Or, it might be fine in principle but somehow just doesn't feel 'right' for us. We don't like turning people down, but we have to hold to our vision of what LT is about - and we hope that if anybody's knocked back, it won't stop them trying again! As for style, we want clear, accessible writing which is informative but not ponderous. For that reason, we don't want academic-style footnotes or references.

Getting material to us

The easiest way to do this is to send a word document by e-mail. We also have 'house rules' as every publication does. So, for instance, all words in song/tune titles should initially in upper case italics - "The Hen's March To The Midden" rather than "The Hen's March to the Midden". We'll change things into this style when needed.

Photos

Photographs are important. If you have access to these, fine, but we may be able to source photographs or arrange to take some. Photos should be credited to the photographer, but shouldn't be submitted without his/her consent. We always like accompanying photos (except for recordings reviews), in black and white or colour. They can be sent by post or by e-mail. They have to be 'reproduction quality' not just snaps, although we can sometimes improve snaps. They shouldn't be already screened (as are newspaper photos) unless this is unavoidable, because they're archive material. We take colour prints and transparencies, and black-and-white. We don't return photos unless asked.

Payment

Sorry, there's zilch! We'd pay if we could, but until such time as the LT is turning over mega-bucks - and that may be, er, a while away - we simply can't!

Making contact with us

We strongly suggest contacting us before submitting something, because we hate to disappoint. Even when we accept work, we reserve the right to edit it for space reasons, or to improve it a bit. We'll always try to respect the work's integrity and the writer's clear intentions, though.

Contact details

Last but not least, please send your full contact details, (address, phone, fax, email) when submitting anything, including details of anyone else connected with the piece (band, artist, photographer, etc), especially if it the first time you have contributed. If you don't, you will not automatically be sent a magazine when it is published.