It’s an important anniversary. For me, not for you. Unless it’s also an important anniversary for you, in which case happy anniversary. And to think people said it wouldn’t last. I am celebrating ten years since first entering the folk scene. No-one can really tell you what constitutes the folk scene, you just know it when you’re in it. Like dung.
Prior to 2008 I’d been attending folk gigs and clubs on my own, knowing no-one, then returning home with that situation unchanged. But something came over me one night in Rickmansworth and I decided to speak to the traditional singer and wool-based artist Jackie Oates. Actually she spoke first, asking if I’d like to buy one of her CDs. My reply of “I’ve already got them” began a lifelong friendship. But it was her suggestion that I should attend the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards that really opened Pandora’s concertina case. What happened next sounds like one of the lies I usually fill this column with. But it’s all true.
I remember that when I arrived at the venue I began to introduce myself to people whose records I owned. You can do that if you’re a journalist. And drunk. Emily Smith seemed a bit startled. Lau seemed a bit grumpy. So I went and watched the ceremony of which I recall nothing. Not even that Phil Collins was there. But afterwards, when I told Bella Hardy she should have won Best Original Song for Three Black Feathers (it fulfilled all three requirements) she flung her arms open wide and asked, “Are you coming to the party?”
I didn’t know there was a party but she promised it would be fabulous and that there would be tunes, so I stood and waited awkwardly until someone I now know to be Laura Hockenhull bundled me into a minibus. That’s how people end up in cults. Also in the minibus were Martin Simpson (who had won Best Original Song), Lisa Knapp (runner up in two categories) and a man who shook my hand suspiciously. “I’m Jim Moray,” said the man. I remembered him from the cover of that CD where he’s wearing make-up. He doesn’t do that any more.
There was a disappointing lack of session-like activity at the party; it was mostly just people shouting. But by the bar were a couple of chaps playing mandolin and guitar so I stood and watched them. One of the fellas had the Led Zeppelin symbol on his mandolin because he was John Paul Jones out of Led Zeppelin, duetting with Tim O’Brien, accompanied on bodhrán by Onslow out of Keeping Up Appearances while John Martyn watched from the side. At one point they sang Maggie’s Farm and Martin Carthy added harmonies. I remember thinking, “My mother is only going to be impressed by one element of this anecdote.”
Before I left, with only two hours sleep remaining before work, I plucked up the courage to tell Julie Fowlis that I thought she was some sort of deity in human form (I may not have used those exact words) and we’ve also been pals ever since. In fact everyone I met that night still tolerates my company, which is both improbable and marvellous. I can only imagine what might’ve happened if I’d gone to The Oscars instead.