The music paused on the open air stage at this year’s Wychwood Music festival as Simon Emmerson, of the Imagined Village announced, " This is a very proud moment for me" and welcomed Annie D and Nick from the Talk A While Forum on stage. They had come to present three "Hancock Awards" to the Imagined Village who had come top in the votes for Best Album, Best Traditional Track with Cold Haily Rainy Night and Best Original Song for Benjamin Zephania’s Tam Lyn Retold in what were previously known cheekily as, "not the BBC 2 Folk Awards".
The Hancock Awards follow the categories and nominees in the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards but this is just the start of the fun. The 3,000 strong community debate whether or not the nominees should be in the category or indeed, whether more deserving artists have been overlooked. After a period of, category readjustment members can cast two votes each in any category, reserving the right to change their votes around, right until the very last minute.The winners are announced at the same time as their counterparts are announced by " the establishment". It all appears very democratic and audience led. The Hancock Awards have been going in earnest for three years and are named after a leading light from their online community Carey Hancock, as Nick explained, "whilst it is easy to do and say anything on line, Carey’s death spurred members to make the awards a more "real life" celebration" not only of all the great folk music out there but also of their friend’s life and his contribution to their online community.
The awards, like the Talk A While Forum, have their roots in Oxfordhsire’s annual Cropredy festival, the forum site even carries a timer ticking away the days, hours and minutes leading up to the festival, such is the excitement around the annual event. Many a discussion would be held in the beer tents and the festival fields. To enable the virtual community to recognize each other, men started wearing red fez’s whilst the women opted for tiaras. The awards echo this tradition by recreating the red fez with its yellow tassle in a stained glass panel.
I asked how the pair of awards presenters came to be on stage at the Wychwood Music Festival. Were they invited ? No, explained Nick, " it is the forum’s intention to try and present these real life awards in person to the artist during one of their performances. We actually contact the artist and invite ourselves." They even had to buy their own tickets and bring their own photographer along.
Benjamin Zephania’s performance with the Imagined Village is pre-recorded and projected onto a huge screen with a live musical accompaniment taking place in the front. This meant he was unable to receive his award but both Anne and Nick hope to meet with him soon and holding onto the award until they can give it to him personally. Simon Emmerson invited " his brother" Tim Whelan on stage, to jointly accept the award for Cold Haily Rainy Night. On accepting the award for Best Album Simon declared, " this award is really important as its voted for by you and I am accepting on behalf of all of you". The audience roared with applause.
After the important interlude, the various artists that make up the Imagined Village, settled back into their set, before going off to sign cd’s, at the Songlines tent, for one of the longest queues the festival witnessed.
To find out more about the Hancock awards visit the Talk A While forum. They also have their own category to the awards each year entitled " The All Round Good Egg Folkie" which this year goes to Simon Nicol. It is hoped that the award will be presented to him at a bar somewhere on location at this year’s Cropredy Festival.
Author: Jill Turner
Jill Turner contributes to Songlines Magazine, World Music Central and is on the fRoots critics albums of the year panel. Her radio show GondwanaSound broadcasts on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM to the fourth largest city in the UK and is carried on both Radio Groovalizacion and African Internet Radio.