The ‘winterval’ between Christmas and new year is usually the time for the Folk Witness album of the year piece. It’s not the world’s greatest accolade, but some previous recipients, and some readers, have been kind enough to show their appreciation – and I certainly enjoy writing it.
I won’t be doing so this year, however. And, as you will be aware if you’re reading this, I haven’t updated FW since our interview with Jackie Oates, which took place in early March.
Since the pandemic hit, I’ve been impressed and moved by our community’s response. Among other things, there have been live-streamed gigs, festivals and talks; albums produced, released and promoted in lockdown; technologically enabled collaborations; the wonderful Folk on Foot fundraising events; podcasts; online listening parties; socially distanced or solo morris dancing; too many fundraisers and Kickstarters to count; and the Save Our Venues campaign. Unrelated to the pandemic, the scene has also taken serious steps to counter gender inequality, which will hopefully continue, and make the folk world a safer place when tours and sessions can resume in earnest.
I’ve found all these things particularly impressive because when coronavirus arrived I felt mentally choked, unable to deal with much more than my day job. For most of the year I have felt unable to write creatively, or about the music I so love. To those who have contacted me about new releases or interviews in that time: apologies. I’ve tried to highlight good work being done to support musicians and venues via social media, but that’s all I’ve felt able to manage. Again (and without wishing to overstate the importance of my tiny corner of the internet) apologies.
So, no album of the year for 2020 – I simply haven’t heard enough of the contenders, apart from anything else – but I hope to resume some kind of activity on FW in 2021. I’m not sure when or in what form!
Coronavirus and its effects are far from over, of course, and musicians also have Brexit and the spectre of visas to contend with (you might want to take a look at this petition). But in a nightmare year, the folk scene has shown it is resilient and strong. I’d like to wish it – and you, if you read this far – all the best for 2021.
Main pic: Anna Earl/Unsplash