It was no surprise that Peter Green (Personality of the Year) and Eric Clapton (Lifetime Achievement) didn’t attend and it was a shame that Paul Jones (Blues Broadcaster of the Year), who was recently stood down from presenting his BBC Radio blues programme after 32 years, couldn’t be there as he is on tour. He had sent a more effusive video message, but also as his producer for some seven years I was asked if I would accept on his behalf and say a few words, which I was most pleased to do.
After 45 minutes or so of award-giving Catfish played our first set - directly after being presented with the award for Best Blues Act: England. This was an interesting departure from previous awards in that there was a category for each of the four nations that make up the U.K. and this seemed to be a good moment for inclusiveness around Britain, as did the presentation for Blues Club/Venue of the year to Edinburgh Blues Club. There was a lot of love in the room for the more local finalist - the Tuesday Night Music Club, but the overall feeling of all the finalists was that to be a nominated finalist was great in itself, which I would agree with. Catfish didn’t win Album of the Year, but again the roar of approval when Broken Man was read out was so uplifting.
After the rest of the awards had been announced it was time for a second set from Catfish - a good proportion of which was taken up with jamming with two of the Young Artist nominees - winner 13 year-old Toby Lee and finalist 14 year-old Marcus Praestgaard-Stevens. Catfish guitarist, my son Matthew, was also a finalist in this category - although he’s 23 and twice their size! But what joy to see such talented young players coming on the scene.
We also jammed with Blues Act of the Year: Wales winner Luke Doherty and would have carried on into the small hours, but for the hitherto-unknown curfew that came at 11pm !
The U.K. Blues Awards are up and running after months of hard work by the organisers, and I think were met with a lot of love by the blues community. The categories are slimmed down from previous iterations and the inclusion of new awards for the Nations and for things like Innovation in the Blues are welcome I think.
No doubt there will be lessons to learn and the 2019 awards will be even bigger and better, but this was a cracking start. Here’s a list of all the winners:
Male Blues vocalist of the Year: Ian Siegal
Female Blues Vocalist of the Year: Rebecca Downes
Blues Band of the Year: King King
Acoustic Blues Act of the Year: Ian Siegal
Young Blues Artist of the Year: Toby Lee
Blues Based Festival of the Year: Upton Blues Festival
UK Blues Based Broadcaster of the Year: Paul Jones
Blues Album of the Year: Exile & Grace – King King
Blues Songwriter of the Year: Alan Nimmo (King King)
Blues Club/Venue of the Year: Edinburgh Blues Club Blues Personality of the Year: Peter Green
Lifetime Contribution to the Blues in UK: Eric Clapton
Innovation in the Blues in the UK: Rag’n’Bone Man
Regional: Blues Act of the Year – England: Catfish
Regional: Blues Act of the Year – Northern Ireland: Kaz Hawkins
Regional: Blues Act of the Year – Scotland: Stevie Nimmo
Regional: Blues Act of the Year – Wales: Luke Doherty