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BBC RADIO 2 FOLK AWARDS - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester - 16 October 2019

In a break with the usual timetable, this year’s awards took place much later in the year to link with the Manchester Folk Festival and the English Folk Expo. The ceremony was broadcast live on Radio 2, but this year there was no video taken for the BBC website.

The show was opened by Manchester band, Edward II, combining English and Jamaican influences, with a little help from Kitty Macfarlane and a chorus of well-known guest singers. Mark Radcliffe then took the lectern, this year without his regular sidekick, Julie Fowlis, who was unfortunately on tour in North America. She did, however, provide the voice-over for the award introductions.

The list of nominees this year featured a lot of lesser known artists and this was reflected in the winners: the Best Traditional Track, The Foggy Dew, was won by Ye Vagabonds; the Best Album, Hide And Hair by The Trials Of Cato, and Folk Singer of the Year by Ríoghnach Connolly.

Inter-award music was provided by O’Hooley & Tidow, Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita and others mentioned in this review. Thea Gilmore sang Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To The End Of Love following his induction into the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame. The Breath had been scheduled to play but were unable to make it. An act had to be found at short notice; Kate Rusby and Damien O’Kane, who were already on their way to Manchester, turned their car around and returned home to pick up Damian’s guitar when they got the call and were joined on stage by Mike McGoldrick.

Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar took to the stage to present the award to the Young Folk Musician of the Year, but surprised us by announcing that Ralph McTell would present an extra award - to Mark Radcliffe, who has spent 40 years in radio as a producer and presenter, and was visibly emotional as he received his Folk Award and a standing ovation.

One of my guitar heroes, Wizz Jones, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award and took to the stage with his son and grandson to delight with a demonstration of fingerpicking skill that I can barely aspire to. Dervish, who had also been presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, was augmented by Kate Rusby and Damien O’Kane, and played us out at the end of an excellent evening celebrating the folk music of our archipelago.

Iain Campbell