Ey Up So here it is, a blog about the most mental, overwhelming and downright brilliant experience you could ever have…ok this might be a slight exaggeration cos owning a pet dragon would probably be slightly more mental, overwhelming and down right brilliant but none the less Folk Alliance is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Basically, it’s four days of extremely well organised chaos and delegates from all over the world turn up to share knowledge, experience, contacts and most of all the music that they love! Just to give you an idea of the scale there was something like over 2000 delegates there; mostly musicians but also promoters, agents, Radio DJ’s, Publicists, Festival organisers and more. It is unlike any expo/conference or gathering that we have here in the UK that’s for sure : ) The 25th Annual Folk Alliance International (FAI) took place at the Delta Chelsea Hotel in Toronto. Can we just take a moment to admire how cool their commemorative poster was:
Sgt Pepper for folkies!
I bought one and have had it framed to put up in my office 🙂 hehe I feel I haven’t really explained quite what FAI is yet, it just seems too mammoth to sum up in a few sentences…but none the less…here it goes. The core programming for this event is based around, panels, workshops and showcases.
- Panels: A chance to learn; whether it’s about how best to present your music in international territories, how to handle your security at festivals, the relevance of Child Ballads in modern folk music or just sharing experiences of music in a social justice context…pretty much any question answered in an array of sessions for artists and others alike.
- Workshops: A chance to learn! Ukelele, or any other instrument for that matter (highly recommended FUN, particularly if your brain is all mushed up from jet lag and late night showcases 😀
- SHOWCASES: Imagine this – 3 floors + the conference suite of the biggest hotel in Canada, each room (that is usually a bedroom) has had the furniture taken out to make way for chairs, scatter cushions, PA’s, mini bars, buffet selections and bunting to put on gig after gig, artist after artist, all night til two in the morning. Each room showcasing up to 10 artists a day. As you walk down the corridors all you can hear is music pouring out of each and every doorway…first a singer songwriter with a bluesy feel, then a band modelled in the image of canned heat, then a trio singing French folk songs, then a harpist, then, then, then…
The showcases are the best and worst bit of FAI…
Best because of the wealth of amazing and varied music that you get to see…I saw so many really cracking artists that I may never had heard otherwise. Highlights included Les Hay Babies, Ashley Condon, David Celia, Teresa Doyle and October Browne, Rose Cousins, the lists goes on and on.
Worst because you can’t help but miss loads of fantastic musicians who are showcasing next door, down the hall or in the room directly above you, but you can’t catch ’em all eh?
FAI is like a festival and a conference had a baby! It’s awesome! I played 6 showcases and sat on 1 panel whilst I was there but when I wasn’t playing I really made the most of being at this wonderful unique event; watched tonnes of music and took in every panel that I could. The only spare hours of my day were spent eating pancakes, going to the really tasty vegetarian buffet restaurant just next door and sleeping off my jet lag before my late evening showcases.
FAI taught me the power of day time power napping, so you can stay up late watching great music – so thanks for that guys, I am truly grateful 😀 hehe
There was not only me but a massive great contingent of British artists showcasing, flying the flag for UK folk music, it was a very special thing to be a part of, there was: Jim Moray, Karine Polwart, Martyn Joseph, Georgia Ruth Williams (whom I had never heard before and she is flipping brilliant!), Sam Carter, Breabach, Rachel Sermanni, Sam Lee, Kilmarnock Edition and Joy Dunlop.
As I have never been to Canada before I also took the opportunity to go for a jaunt around Toronto, to take in some local culture and just so I could really say I’d been : ) My favourite part of Toronto was Kensington Market, some local Torontonians described it to me as being like The Laines in Brighton – but I think it was more like Glastonbury Festival, full of boho hippy’s in vintage gear buying organic fruit and chai tea…twas right up my street I can tell ya! And the whole place was covered in amazing street art
Street art in Kensington Market
I also managed to find, not one, but two cheese shops…just in case you have never read one of my blogs before…I LOVE CHEESE!
And so that was it, 4 awesome days which were over in a flash! I met loads of really great people and I hope that it will not be my last time across the pond because I truly had a ball, FAI has such an amazing sense of community! In fact I am already plotting on how to get to their meeting in Kansas next year hehe…dya think if I click my ruby slippers together I’ll make it? :p
Lastly, thanks so much to the English Folk Dance and Song Society who took both me and the lovely Jim Moray out to FAI and exposed us to this amazing experience, it really was a wonderful thing to be a part of and a completely unforgettable experience that I have learnt soooooooooo much from : )
I think I have rambled enough…except to say I am now off on tour for two months 😀 you can check out my tour dates here
you take care