Bluesdoodles’ Liz Aiken is delighted to be actively involved with UKBlues Federation. From being on the board, a judge at the first UKBlues Challenge and now part of the inaugural FORMUKBlues Awards. Blues fans, musicians, PR and media were all on the May blues migration to Worthing Pier’s Southern Pavilion where the awards were going to be presented, live music from Catfish and the opportunity to meet up with friends.
The FORMUKBlues Awards started with a panel who were asked to nominate the acts they wanted to receive a recognition across seventeen categories. With five nominees selected the next stage was a public vote, voting for the acts that they feel have delivered the blues for them.
The weather couldn’t have been better with blue seas and skies bright and sunny, as the anticipatory tension built up as the chatter rose with the venue filling rapidly. With Sarah Reeve and her team with yellow tee-shirts as bright as the sun with welcoming smiles ensured goodie bags were given and tables found. Now was the moment for the doors to open fingers crossed that technology would not let us down. Now time for the Awards to be announced. The movers, shakers and opinion shapers across the UK Blues Scene took their seats at the tables and waited for the formal part of the night to begin.
With Dave Raven & Ashwyn Smyth of the UKBlues Federation getting the proceedings underway, the opening slot was a short and amusing video from Federation patron Mike Vernon, sadly he could not be in Worthing in person. He certainly set the tone for the awards that kept on being fun, with Ian Siegal stepping up to be the MC for the night. With a glint in his eye, he started with the opening of the first Gold Envelope. His wit and ready smile made sure the audience laughed and felt part of the proceedings as the trophies were handed out. You were never quite sure when his razor-sharp tongue and eagle-eyed observations would spill out, but he resisted whoever was being announced as the winner. (The fill List of Winners and Finalists are at the bottom of the overview). The cheers for the winners were always warm, with finalists applauded as well as those who won. That is the conundrum of awards the joy of being a winner and the disappointment of being a finalist. In reality, everyone and every organisation who were nominated were winners. The fans who go out to live music are never to be forgotten without them the musicians would be playing to empty clubs and venues. It is people that keep the scene alive, they give support to bands as they tour the land, make festivals a success and drive the genre forward.
With the first batch of awards announced the tone was set for the night. A short break, no one wasted a minute as they caught up with people from across the land and then the first opportunity to hear Catfish tonight. Having just received Blues Act of the Year – England they all had a spring in their musical step. Live Music the heart and soul of the blues scene this is the energy that courses through our veins. The set was fantastic, as ever Catfish delivered their sound, and interpretation of blues today with a variety of tones and textures which really got the venue warmed-up it was fun.
Ian once again took to the stage with a clutch of Gold envelopes and announced the remaining winners and finalists his commentary made sure the proceedings never got boring that the atmosphere remained buoyant and uplifting as we celebrated the music we love.
With the awards over the second set from Catfish was relaxed as they invited the young players on stage. First up, Toby Lee, Winner of Young Blues Artist of The Year, his guitar playing stung as he, with youthful energy, lit the blue touch paper. The torch was then picked up by the finalist Marcus Praestgaard-Stevens. Blues is certainly being noticed by some young people. It is our duty make sure that every generation finds the Blues. These two young ambassadors certainly will help spread the word along with the other finalists, Benjamin Bassford, Matt Long and Tom C. Walker. Also joining Matt on stage was Luke Doherty the Regional winner for Wales. These are part of the future spreading the music ensuring that Blues is seen as exciting to play and listen to. What a wonderful way to close the 2018 FORMUKBlues Awards – let’s see what 2019 brings as we celebrate the music being played this year. Tonight was a great beginning and the destination is as yet to be discovered as the event grows and develops.
As ever, awards will always spark off debates. These can be healthy discussions raising the profile of the blues across the U.K. Britain will forever be associated with the British Blues Explosion of the 1960’s. When artists that continue to influence popular music far beyond Britain, changed the face of music forever. The electric guitar and vocalist ruled. With The Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, The Animals and Led Zeppelin. Guitarists that continue to be mentioned as an influence from Eric Clapton to Peter Green from Beck to Page. At the centre of this new wave of blues with a British twist was John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers and Chris Barber, without him would there have been this connection between Britain and the Blues. A distinctively Black American musical culture out of the Deep South and into the industrial towns of the North with Chicago Blues becoming a distinct sound.
Yes, let the debate begin, let the voice of British Blues be heard. The Awards are a fantastic means of getting noticed Tonight was the beginning as the Award grow and become a recognised music occasion and blues once again are celebrated across the U.K. Yes, in 2018 and beyond the sound will continue to develop, from the beginning of the genre the music has grown, changed and adapted to cultural and musical influence. The Blues are alive and full of delicious diversity of sound and will remain a constant influence to many even if they do not realise it when they shape their music. This is the beginning of the journey not the end, lessons will have been learnt the Federation will gain from this experience. Next year the Awards will be bigger and the sapphire glitz will shine brighten but most importantly the fun and joy of meeting friends will be the blues glue that joins us all together even if we think someone else should have been nominated or won there is always 2019!
FORMUKBlues Awards 2018 – Winners and Finalists
Male Vocalist of the Year (Sponsored by Blues in the South)
Female Vocalist of the Year (Sponsored by Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival)
Blues Band of the Year (Sponsored by Saltburn Blues Club)
Gerry Jablonski & The Electric Band
Acoustic Blues Act of The Year (Sponsored by John Cee Stannard)
Half Deaf Clatch
Young Blues Artist of The Year (Sponsored by Jessica Foxley Music Projects)
Tom C Walker
Blues Based Festival of the Year (Sponsored by Blues & Roots PR)
Upton Blues Festival
Carlisle Blues Rock Festival
Colne Great British R & B Festival
Ealing Blues Festival
Maryport Blues Festival
UK Blues Based Broadcaster of the Year (Sponsored by New Crawdaddy Blues Club, Basildon)
Blues Album of the Year (Sponsored by The Colourblind Music Show)
King King – Exile & Grace
Broken Man – Catfish
God Bless America – The Mighty Bosscats
This Is The Life I Choose Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion
Wildfire – Elles Bailey
Blues Songwriter of the Year (Sponsored by Sunday Morning Soul)
Alan Nimmo (King King)
Half Deaf Clatch
Blues Club / Venue of the Year (Sponsored by The British Blues Archive)
Edinburgh Blues Club
Blue Funk at Poynton British Legion
St Harmonica’s Blues club, London
Tuesday Night Music Club, London
Worthing Pier’s Southern Pier
Blues Personality of the Year (Sponsored by The Meeting Room, Elland)
Lifetime Contribution to Blues in the UK (Sponsored by Raven & Blues)
Innovation in the Blues in the UK (Sponsored by Jason Elliott and Paddy Maguire)
Ealing Club Community Interest Company
Half Deaf Clatch
Wille & The Bandits
Regional: Blues Act of the Year – ENGLAND (Sponsored by Sound Discs)
Dave Kelly & Paul Jones
Wille & The Bandits
Regional: Blues Act of the Year – NORTHERN IRELAND (Sponsored by Red Pepper Promotions)
Regional: Blues Act of the Year – Scotland (Sponsored by Edinburgh Blues Club)
Black Cat Bone
Regional: Blues Act of the Year – WALES (Sponsored by Mid-Wales R&B Club)
Big Joe Bone