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BBC RADIO 2 FOLK AWARDS - The Waterfront, Belfast - 4 April 2018

This year saw the award ceremony cross the sea to Belfast. A packed hall clapped and cheered throughout the presentations and some spirited performances from Lankum, Dónal Lunny, Olivia Chaney and Paul Brady. Cara Dillon sang a verse from Tommy Sands’ There Were Roses to remind us that we were only a few days away from the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

This year the ceremony ran straight through so we missed hearing the recorded playing of the Young Folk Award nominees during the break which was a shame.

The winners were a mix of the young talent that abounds these days; Imar, Lankum and The Young’uns (Dónal Lunny quipped that he was glad that he wasn’t starting these days as he may not have made it) and people who I would hesitate to call the ‘old guard’ but who have crafted substantial careers - Karine Polwart, Chris Stout and Catriona McKay.

The message that came through to me from the speeches and music was that the tradition is maintained and developed by those that play the music and those that support it, either live or in recorded form.

Gabrielle Drake spoke of her brother Nick’s music as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame and thanked “those who have played and popularised his music”.

For me the highlight was provided by The Good Tradition Award which this year went to the Armagh Pipers Club. They embody everything I love about this music. 52 years ago, a few people realised that it was necessary to address a shortage of pipers. Today the club teach many different instruments and over the years have helped tens of thousands of musicians find their way. That we were played out by an ensemble formed from current and previous club members provided a fitting finale.

Iain Campbell