STOP PRESS: I now have nine winners. The tenth has been drawn from a number of other entrants who made interesting but incorrect stabs - in terms of what I wanted (ie something that set the two albums apart) - and any further correct or similarly deserving replies received by a strict deadline of 5pm UK time today Thursday Sept 11). That deadline having now passed, you can always head off to the Bright Young Folk site for a Bellowhead signed CDs competition......for news f my winners, go to this link at Salut! Live
Read on for simple instructions on how to win one of 10 signed copies of Eliza Carthy's album*, Dreams of Breathing Underwater (Topic).
For a short part of my long stint as The Daily Telegraph's folk critic, I would set competitions about people whose gigs I was previewing.
The idea got off to a bad start when I asked readers to name each of the women who had been part of the Irish band De Dannan. There were, I recall, four replies. One came from within the office and two more arrived in identical handwriting on similar postcards. The fourth entry won the prize.
It was an object lesson in running competitions when the object is actually to encourage people to enter. My question, simple enough for the kind of folk drawn to Salut! Live, was too hard for a mainstream readership.
So when Fairport offered me four pairs of tickets for Cropredy, I made sure it was easier. Who was the only founder member of the band who still belonged to it?
Imagine the hoops. You had to buy the Telegraph , like folk or folk-rock, open the arts section, see the listings, read my small contribution, know the answer, want to attend the festival, bother to write in. Yet replies - almost all correctly identifying Simon Nicol - poured in. Well over 100, small when considering the size of the Telegraph circulation - then a million plus on Saturdays - but highly impressive when considering the hoops. I disqualified, while secretly loving, the reply from a chap who expressed amazement that the Telegraph would have as many as four Fairport fans, let alone four pairs of them, among its readers.
I do not expect as many people to write to me at my e-mail address and state correctly what the albums Red Rice and Anglicana have in common apart from having been made by Eliza Carthy and - though the answer I am looking for is topical - appeared on Topic.***
For a start, there is still no tradition of people writing to Salut! Live, even at times when a particular article - my interviews with Rachel Unthank, Kate Rusby and Vin Garbutt are good examples - attracts a large number of visitors, some of whom annoyingly post interesting or complimentary messages at other sites where I have perhaps tried to drum up interest.
So the Carthy exercise is less competition, more a race, given that I have followed history's lesson and posed the easiest of questions.
I might have asked a different question: why was the ruse of running competitions within the Telegraph folk listings so short-lived if it eventually became popular feature? Answer: because the dour man who then ran the arts pages decided it was "demeaning".
* This is what I had to say about Dreams of Breathing Underwater:
....I think it's delicious. I have paid my own dues to a form of purism, expressing the view that Eliza Carthy at her best is, or was, Eliza Carthy singing North Country Maid unaccompanied. But I have found it entirely possible to admire and enjoy the various meandering routes she has taken in music, routes that keep her interested, make it more likely that she can earn a living and add greatly to the sum and substance of modern English music.
*** All entries must be made as advised above, to my e-mail address. The first 10 correct replies will receive signed copies of the album. My decision will be final. Any winner from outside the UK may have to be patient, as the winning copies in such cases will be mailed by the distributors, Proper Music, to my London address, where they will await my next visit from Abu Dhabi before being forwarded.
Since posting this - and having to dash off to change my cash card pin number amid a spot of banking chaos in the UAE - I realise that there is, or was, more than one correct answer. Leaving aside the record label, which DOES NOT COUNT, I will therefore be flexible in deciding which responses merit inclusion among the winners.