Oh no. Not more lists of favourites
Peruvian dreams. How to make music for love not money

Cara Dillon, Ian Anderson, John Spiers and the tragic lockdown tale that cries out for an uplifting new chapter

Two small slices of social media grabbed my attention today. Someone posted at a neighbourhood group to which I belong in Ealing, west London that a motor-cycle had been nicked from outside an address at the other end of the avenue from my street. Crikey, I thought mischievously, our wretched Government has even let down the pilfering classes, ensuring that in bleak times even for them - burglaries must surely be down if everyone's been stuck inside - criminal lowlife must find its own ways to survive.
 
Then I saw Cara Dillon's tweet shown above. And I have to confess to feeling a great deal sorrier and angrier about the plight of musicians, entertainers generally and the venues in which they used to perform before Covid-19 than I do about any grievances thieves may harbour.
 
I have wondered at different stages of the crisis whether there might be anything this tiny site could do to help. Would Salut! Live's small but sometimes influential readership make some sort of crowd-funding appeal work? This tweet from John Spiers - think Bellowhead but much more, including a stream of spot-on tweets as @squeezyjohn - sums up how performers feel about the appalling lack of support they and their industry have received ...
 
 
 
I also reached the conclusion that I - Salut! Live - probably had little offer.
 
But since Cara's tweet forms part of a major initiative on the part of this beleaguered industry, which I happen to regard as vital to national well-being, let me reproduce - without his consent since he hasn't been asked but, I am sure, with his blessing - this powerful article posted at facebook by Ian A Anderson, who created, edited and published the much-missed fRoots magazine ...
 
 
Sorry, long boring think piece. Best look away.
It's a strange eerie coincidence that today has been chosen to launch a big music industry campaign to lobby the government to support the live music industry - because it was on this same day exactly a year ago, 2nd July, that I had to make the heartrending announcement that we were suspending publication of fRoots Magazine after 40 years. At the time it seemed like a big thing and that it would be sorely missed, but actually in the situation we have now it seems like a minor ripple in far heavier stormy seas, quickly forgotten.
And yesterday there seemed to be a co-ordinated thrust beginning to try to persuade the BBC to reverse its savage cutbacks on folk/ roots music coverage (regional programmes axed, national ones pushed into graveyard slots, everything vanished from TV) - a pretty much exact repeat of several similar campaigns we waged down the years, using almost the same arguments. These are groundhog days!
Extraordinarily, when I look back on it, it's 53 years since I walked out on the one brief "proper job" I had. Ever since then I managed to employ myself one way or another in music – by playing it myself; running clubs, festivals and concerts; record labels; broadcasting; organising tours; publishing a magazine and all sorts. Apart from wanting to keep a roof over my head, the main motivation was always to enthuse more people with the musics I love and - not to put too fine a point on it - do it properly or not at all.
Somehow I managed, apart from one or two specific projects, to do it entirely without any official financial support or funding, but that was mostly because a) I was always in a community, an eco-system, of like-minded enthusiasts and b) none of us ever expected to earn very much or gave any thought to our old age. Looking back, that was probably really stupid from a personal point of view (regrets, I've got a few…) but the circumstances existed to allow independents to do that. It was always a standing joke, "isn't it great that we're not part of the music business?"
Even six months ago many of us were still having those same depressing discussions about "the future of folk clubs." It was finally reaching the crunch point that had been warned about for decades: although there are lots of brilliant young artists, with a few exceptions the audiences and organisers they play for have come from the same generation who got the whole thing rolling in the 1960s or '70s. Why would younger audiences be attracted into rooms full of people their grandparents' age? Why could young artists be arsed to run clubs when people were doing it already? Why indeed… but now the grim reaper was staring intently at that original generation.
Little did we know that a virus would finish at a stroke what decades of attrition still hadn't managed. Those audiences and organisers - let alone us "heritage" artists whose playing careers are probably, abruptly, over – are all in the virus-vulnerable age group who are unlikely to want or be advised to group together to enjoy music in small spaces any more, let alone singing at each other which we've all been warned is a serious plague spreader. And staring at a laptop screen for a "virtual" folk club is simply not a substitute for human company.
While the bigger mainstream music business is looking for - and hopefully will find – political and financial support (it f***ing ought to, considering the billions it contributes to the economy and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supports) - nothing like that can make our folk clubs and small music venues viable again for their existing audiences. F*** it, I'm even scared at the very thought of pubs reopening on Saturday, without even considering going near one!
So what I'm saying can't realistically be "save our folk clubs." For reasons beyond our control I simply can't see how that will be possible. It would be a waste of energy that could better be put to creating alternatives. What it needs - if only to keep an involved audience for the music, a customer base for record sales etc if you want to be purely mercenary about it – is new ideas.
Right now I can think of very few that would work outside the unpredictable summer months where things like back garden concerts and sessions could happen outside - small festivals might have a better chance of happening than big concerts for example. But it needs more than that and there'll be no government money for it - there never was and there certainly won't be now. We are not part of the music business.
Hopefully younger artists will have better, more creative ideas - if only to have any chance at a lifetime of not having a proper job, like me!

Comments

David D

I moved to South America a few years ago and before that had quite a decent "education" in latin, specifically Andean, folk music, even knocking out a few examples in the generic dance rhythms. When I got here I hung up my guitar- they learn in primary school here (full parade bands), and often go further: conservatories not just in the capital, but also major cities.

Disclaimer: full credit is paid by people here to the originators of the folklore (collector) movement, both in Britain and the USA.

Before leaving, a good friend advised me: to be a musician in my world, you will earn little cash but will receive much love. And this is true, because over here music has a very different social purpose. The nearest I can get is to say it functions as a refreshment of Identity, and I think that Identity is a very problematic term in the countries of the North Atlantic and Western Europe.

Who goes to a concert in, for example, England, usually goes because they are a fan of the group or singer.

Who goes to a concert in any Latino country goes there as a celebration of Who We Are. At a concert of a famous Bolivian group in London two Bolivians in the audience holding a banner overhead made sure me in the middle was also helping hold it up. And so on.

When I use the term Identity I am not going down the road you may imagine. Instead, think of all the "individualisation" that has taken place in the last 5 decades or so in our own Kingdom, all those little things that disintegrated community, family, workplace, all those dreams of getting rich by dropping off useless appendices. It's breaking my heart to be honest.

Maybe there is a hint in this that all is not lost... but if possible you may want to learn from others.

David
Trujillo, Perú

Colin Randall

Wonderful post , David. It may well be promoted to a self contained piece!

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