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AlexB BBC Folk Awards last chance (24) RE: BBC Folk Awards last chance 24 Jan 07

Scrump asked for a transcript, so I listened to it again and typed it up as best as I was able.

Roger Bolton: I'm not sure if Dylan can be categorised as a folk singer any more. Anyway, despite just issuing his best record in years he hasn't been nominated for the 2007 Radio 2 Folk Awards, which will be held on February the 5th. The Awards, which focus attention on the world of folk music, are voted for by a panel of around 150 broadcasters, folk journalists, festival organisers and agents. These people choose their favourite tracks and artists in different categories, from which a short list is compiled. The panel then votes again on the short list, and the winners are declared on the big night. So far so.. admirable you may think, but David Eyre, a folk fan from Sheffield, thinks their may have been dirty work at the crossroads, since he can't understand how one particular song was short listed in the category "best traditional track".

Dave: The issue is centred on the selection of this one song, Seth Lakeman's "The White Hare". It shares a title with a well known traditional song, and that may have confused the judges. But this is clearly not a traditional song, anyone listening to it would know that immediately.

RB: Would they? Would you? Here is that track, Seth Lakeman's "White Hare".

[clip plays]

David Eyre also thinks that the 150 people who vote on the short lists might not be entirely independent, since many may have been connected with promoting certain records or singers.

Dave: It would be nice if, for instance, we had the number of votes that were cast. I want the Folk Awards to be successful, I want them to be regarded as a quality standard, and I want the Awards to mean something, and by choosing a non-traditional track for the traditional track listing, uh, that's dented that to a certain extent. I just want transparency, and I know a lot of folk fans agree with me.

RB: David Eyre. The producer of the awards is John Leonard of the independent production company Smooth Operations. I asked him first to explain why Seth Lakeman's song appeared in the traditional category.

John Leonard: Seth thinks it's traditional, he's.. he's put it down as traditional on his cd, on both versions of the cd so he's had two chances to think about it.

RB: But you don't just accept his definition, do you? He might think "hey, I'm going to win in that category more than another so I'll call it traditional." I mean you must have objective criteria for it, don't you?

JL: Yes, it... it is a very strong category so I don't think he would think that. I think he would think more in terms financially, and er.. if he called it his own song he'd earn more royalties, and so he's obviously done a lot of hard thinking about it.
Um.. I think.. uh it.. what is a traditional song? I think that's the question you've got to ask, and opinion is, first of all you don't know the composer, you don't know the person who actually wrote this work. Its perhaps been shaped by many hands, its passed through many minds, many performers have performed it and.. I talked to Seth about it when the question arose and we discussed where he'd got the song from. Now first of all, the words - the story - are a traditional West Country legend. They tell the story of the white hare. The tune Seth heard in a pub when he was a lad. He went home, learnt it and has played it and changed it and altered it a little bit. But he felt that because it had come from so many different sources, he didn't actually know who'd written these words - he couldn't trace it – he decided it was more honest to put down that it was a traditional song rather than to claim that he'd written it. And I think that it is the true definition of what a traditional song is. Just because there is a documented version of "The White Hare" somewhere, doesn't mean that you can't have different versions of that song coming through a different route, surely that's true.. a true definition of what traditional is.

RB: Well... Dave Eyre has another point, he thinks that the 150 people who vote on the short lists might not be entirely independent, and his answer is why not make the process transparent. You know, so for example we.. there.. we would know the numbers of votes cast, first for the nomination and then for the selection that put it first, second or third and how many votes it takes to get nominated and so on.. would you be that transparent?

JL. Um.. possibly. I mean we.. we have about 150..

RB: Ohh. Well what would persuade you, what would persuade you then?

JL: Let me tell you how we do it first of all, 'cause that's not quite accurate. There are about 150 people that we invite to vote, and round about 80% of them do, and they are drawn from people like: broadcasters; journalists; agents; record companies; people who run festivals, peoples whose job it is to make decisions about folk music during their daily..

RB: And can you be sure they are entirely independent?

JL: No, some of them are not entirely independent. That, you know, because obviously if we go to, its a very small community, and so if we go to a record company...uh.. they might vote for their own people. So we did a very interesting exercise this year. We looked at last years results and took out the votes of all the people who could be said to have a vested interest, and it made virtually no difference at all. Uh, people are very honest when they vote.

RB:But if people are very honest, then why not just let it be transparent and give the information, put it on your notice board and then everybody can see who voted for what, why and, presumably, end of controversy.

JL: I don't, the reason that I don't publish a list of the people who vote, because I think it would focus attention on them and the better off performers would be able to lobby for their votes.

RB: Well, how about the compromise, where all you publish is the number of votes cast?

JL: I have absolutely no problem with doing that at all. What I don't, what I..

RB: So you are going to do it? You're going to do that then? So everyone can switch on and look at your noticeboard, you're website and then they'll know.

JL: Let me tell you what I don't want to do, first of all, and that is go beyond the four that are nominated. Because where do you stop? Now if you say, if I want to go down to number ten, would you want to know that you tenth or fifteenth best this year? Or would you prefer to know that you'd just not been voted for? That's how...

RB: Alright, how about votes for the top four then?

JL: I don't see why not.

RB: The producer of the Radio 2 Folk Awards, John Leonard. And he said he would publish those figures on the Radio 2 folk website after the award ceremony, so as not to give away who the out and out front runners are before the big night.

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