BBC Radio presenter Mark Radcliffe’s excellent Folk Show present its awards at the Royal Albert Hall later this month
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) once said (to the surprise of some) “the genuine root of culture is folk music”. Nowhere is this more evident than in Ireland; it is something that has always been influential there, part of the fabric of the country and something that gives it its identity.
In the UK, however, despite a dedicated following, it has never been considered particularly fashionable. Yet the modern accessibility to music and the fluidity of folk means more and more people are taking it to their hearts.
Ed Sheeran played three sold-out shows to 80,000 people at Wembley. Mumford and Sons have seemingly provided the soundtrack to every British summer since 2010. Admittedly they aren’t ones for folk purists but their style and popularity can only be good for the genre as a whole.
Then there’s Mark Radcliffe and his increasingly listened-to Folk Show on BBC Radio 2.
Exploring a wide range of folk music, Radcliffe gives listeners the whole package – from history lessons, to contemporary tunes, to stars of the future. Once more he is gearing up to the annual BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and once more the list of nominees and performers is impressive.
Ireland is well represented by Dublin-based band Lynched and Coleraine’s Damien O’Kane. Lynched, in going for three separate awards, are the most nominated act at the event, while O’Kane will challenge them for the crown of Best Album. Consisting of brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch, Cormac MacDiarmada and Radie Peat, Radcliffe said they “mark a turning point in folk”, bringing back “the voice of the streets”.
Lynched are also targeting the Best Folk Group award, where they face competition from The Young’uns, Stick in the Wheel and Leveret, as well as the Horizon award.
The ceremony, on 27 April at the Royal Albert Hall, will also see another inductee into the Awards’ Hall of Fame. Here it gets to honour the pioneers of British folk music and perhaps educate viewers on what they achieved.
In 2014 it was Cecil Sharp, the Godfather of the folk revival in the UK in the early 20th century. A year later it was Ewan MacColl, a multi-faceted entertainer and father to the late Kirsty MacColl.
This year sees the show honour Sandy Denny, arguably the first queen of British folk rock.
And as well as taking a trip down memory lane, the Awards ceremony boasts an impressive line-up that shows folk is very much coming back into the fray.
In addition to their bid for a trio of gongs, Lynched will be performing a set, as will the likes of Sam Lee, Joan Armatrading and The John McCusker Band.
Most recently, Radcliffe confirmed that former Dire Straits’ frontman Mark Knopfler would be performing on the night. A legendary guitarist and a household name, Knopfler’s appearance will only serve to elevate the presence of folk music.
It might have a long way to go in breaking the most popular of music genres, and it might never have the same impact in the UK as it does in Ireland. But slowly but surely, through the discovery of old traditions, the surfacing of hybrid styles and the emergence of fresh new talent, folk music is making its way into the mainstream.
• Tickets for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Music Awards can be booked at www.royalalberthall.com/ or by calling 020 7589 8212