Sheffield’s diverse music scene will be the centre of world attention tonight at the Brit Awards and BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, writes Graham Walker.
The Arctic Monkeys, up for Best Group and Best British Album, AM, will open the Brits ceremony live at The O2 in London on ITV, at 8pm.
But all eyes won’t just be focused on the city’s rock superstars.
At exactly the same time, just up the road at the Royal Albert Hall, two other Sheffield music greats are nominated for a total of seven categories in the Folk Awards, live on Radio 2.
Good friends Fay Hield and Martin Simpson, who are also performing, are even up against each other for Best Album, which is a public vote.
In an unusual twist Martin, nominated for Vagrant Stanzas, also sings with Fay on her nominated album, The Full English.
They are part of a folk supergroup, also called The Full English, which is up for Best Group.
Fay is also nominated for Folk Singer Of The Year and Martin for Musician Of The Year.
What it all adds up to is the possibility of Sheffield dominating not just the world of pop but also the folk industry when the awards get underway.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our video chat with Fay Hield
Martin says he is delighted to be appearing at the Radio 2 Folk Awards both as a solo artist and as a member of The Full English.
He said: “I’m so proud of what we achieved as a band this last year and also just as proud of my latest solo CD. Last year was a good year.
“It’s a real honour to be asked to perform at the Folk Awards and I’m excited to be going back to The Royal Albert Hall, particularly in the year that Martin Carthy, one of my main musical inspirations in life, is to be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
“There’s no doubt that it’s a thoroughly deserved award but it’ll have to be updated in a few years as I know he’s going to carry on producing fantastic and innovative music for a long lifetime yet!”
Vagrant Stanzas, a Kentucky term to describe the floating verses in traditional songs, was conceived around the kitchen table with his friend, neighbour and co-producer Richard Hawley.
Richard first met Martin when he presented him with an earlier Folk Award and the two hit if off after discovering they lived only yards from one another.
“We sat playing and it struck me how brilliant a musician he is and how good things sounded around the kitchen table. The ideas between both of us seemed really natural, the purity of it,” said Richard.
The Full English is a ground-breaking project sponsored by the English Folk Dance and Song Society that draws together for the first time the early 20th century folk song collections of Harry Albino, Lucy Broadwood, Clive Carey, Percy Grainger, Maud Karpeles, Frank Kidson, Thomas Fairman Ordish, Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Alfred Williams.
The result is the most comprehensive searchable database of British folk songs, tunes, dances and customs in the world.
And to mark the launch of the project, folk song scholar and acclaimed singer Fay, a music lecturer at the University of Sheffield, assembled The Full English Tour, pulling together half a dozen of the top talents on the English folk music circuit for an evening of songs drawn from these unique collections.
It includes Martin, regarded as one of the world’s finest and most admired guitarists.
Mum-of-two Fay, previously nominated for Best Newcomer, told The Star: “I don’t have a set plan, I just do what’s coming up. I started singing in pubs. My university degree came from asking what is folk music? I’m now lecturing, but still singing and recording albums. The Full English was a massive project.
“I’m up for three awards. It’s very exciting and great to be playing as well. It’s the first time it’s been held at the Albert Hall. It’s a bit daunting. We’ll have a good time whatever.
“Martin is in the same category twice, for The Full English, with us, but so is his album Vagrant Stanzas. He was a bit torn which one he should be pushing for.
“That was a public vote. So the people will have spoken and we can’t wait to find out. We pull each other’s legs in the van all the time so there will be nothing different. We’ll just be very pleased with whatever happens and slap each other on the back, whatever.”
Irish supergroup Clannad will also be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award and will be performing live at the event, along with Bellowhead and Suzanne Vega.
The Folk Awards will be live on BBC Radio 2 online, on digital and on 88191FM and also on the BBC TV’s Red Button service.
* Fay, Martin and Richard all appear on The Women Of Steel album, raising money towards a £150,000 statue to honour women who worked the city’s steel mills during two world wars.
The album features 13 tracks donated by a variety of pop, rock, folk and other music stars, all in support of The Star backed Women Of Steel concert which took place at Sheffield City Hall last November - itself raising over £60,0000 towards the appeal.
The £10.99 Women Of Steel Album, or individual tracks at 99p each, can be bought via iTunes and from the event’s official website, where you will find more information, at www.womenofsteeltheconcert.co.uk.
There are also plans for a folk concert to raise more money later this year - watch this space.