Every year the BBC Folk Awards throws up the usual “X should have been nominated, Y should have won?” debate which is essentially nothing more than special pleading for favourites and consequently something I stay well clear of. This year though there were two blatant travesties which shouldn’t go unmarked.
The citation for Folk Singer of the Year is “the artist making the most impact during the past year either through performance, albums or a special event” and it was won by Bella Hardy. Now, I love her music but essentially all she did this year was release a decent album and play live. Important, yes, good yes, but “the most impact”? Fay Hield had a case for her leadership of The Full English. But Lucy Ward, Lucy Ward makes a huge impact every time she appears. The way she looks and performs subverts all the clichés about folksingers and you only have to go to one of her gigs to see that a lot of the time she’s preaching to the unconverted. What could be more important and have a greater impact on folk music than that? Oh, and she released a great album. Should have won.
Then there’s the Horizon award, given to the best newcomer. There’s an argument for saying that Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker should have won Best Duo over Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin but there should have been absolutely no argument about their not so much winning but strolling the Horizon award. Clarke has one of the best voices of anyone of any age on the folk scene, Walker can stand foursquare with any acoustic guitarist you care to mention and their album Fire and Fortune was a magnificent blend of traditional and original pieces. Instead it went to a duo who, while I have nothing against them, indeed quite like them, are simply not in the same league.