English Folk Expo’s open letter to the BBC and to Oliver Dowden MP

At the end of June, English Folk Expo’s CEO Tom Besford sent an open letter to James Purnell, BBC’s Director of Radio and Education, calling for a confirmation of the BBC’s commitment to support the presence of folk, roots and acoustic music, and specialist music as a whole, in the BBC’s music programming, as a vital element of the BBC’s role in supporting our cultural heritage through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several of the BBC’s regional folk music programmes have been cut, moved or temporarily shelved in recent months, and there are different online petitions on the go at present to draw attention to the fact that the radio coverage these shows provide is a valued and necessary part of cultural life.  Do support these if you can.

The letter to the BBC stated that: “Many musicians are living relatively hand to mouth in the best of times. One of the most important factors which sustains their music making, keeping our traditional music alive has been the valuable support of the BBC, in turn supported by the licence fee payers. However, during the pandemic, the BBC have made the decision to merge large swathes of their output and this has seen the cancelling of many regional folk music shows across England. Similarly, the Folk Show on Radio 2 has been moved back in the schedules twice; once pre-pandemic from 7pm to 9pm, reducing audience figures significantly, and now temporarily during the pandemic to 11pm. In addition, we still have no announcement on a BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards this year.”

Later in July, Tom Besford, along with Katy Spicer of EFDSS, wrote to Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to congratulate him in securing £1.57 billion for the support of the UK’s arts and heritage sector in these difficult times, and urging him to ensure that appropriate provision and consideration is given to the folk arts in England when it comes to spending it.  The letter said: “…we have now a genuine concern that without direct financial intervention, the impact of the pandemic could see England’s folk and traditional heritage decimated for years to come.”