A plea for diversity, ethical purchasing and the occasional impulse buy. Also a suggestion that we have more power than we think if only we chose touse it.
I think this still makes sense and, if anything, the years that have gone by have shown the truth of it more and more.
NOT THAT I don't shop at Tesco or Safeway but ....
I tried to get a broken carwindow fixed at one of the M6 services recently. 1 rang whatever firm the hire car company had a deal with (my own vehicle died last autumn) and, after some delay, the fitter started fitting and everything was going fine - until the heavies at the service station garage came. My fitter would have to go elsewhere to do it. They had the repair franchise there and other cowboys would be seen off the reservation. (A propos of which, 1 keep expecting to see some extremely thin Indians living on all those central reservations, but that's neither here nor there).
Back to the service station. You see, it only looks like the public highway: in fact, it's private land. As indeed are the walkways within the shopping malls and, these days, most of the short-cuts and alleyways near new developments. Once upon a time, the powerful only owned the land and the buildings. Now they own the highways too.
What's all this about? (Listen to him, he gets more like Alistair Cooke every month!). Well, it's about the fact that famous name bands are what people most go to see. Especially in times of recession, making promoters fight shy of unknown names, who are nearly always bad box office. Organisers of folk (or other) events often get undeserved flak for not booking adventurously. Most of the time, it's bitter experience. Unknown names get poorly supported. And who's to blame for that? We are. The punters.
It's all ethical purchasing and it ought to be more widely practised. Those few crumbs we get from the rich man's tables (or do I mean three-storey banqueting halls?) are an important source of power, but we don't often choose to use it. Backing up our choices with the way we spend cash is very effective. So, if you want supermarkets, not corner shops, if you want multinationals, not individuals, thriving foreign manufacturers, rather than British ones, then put your money there.
And, if you want to support a rich diversity of music, go out and risk a band you've not heard before. OK, they may be crap but perhaps you are too or, if you are not, I bet you once were and if you haven't even tried,
you've no room to talk. You can extend this to other experiences, other art forms. There's a world out there to experience.
Just once in a while, perhaps in a very long while, you'll make an exciting discovery, and it will be yours, not Taplas' or WOMAD's or whoever. It'll taste ever such a lot nicer for that and you should get a warm glow where it matters. Which is just what you'll deserve.
Not one of the better ones.
There are three topics scambled up in here and not all that coherent.
The first point is that we need to understand any art form by looking at excellence. The second is that excellence comes from understanding meaning not surface attention to detail. The third is a reminder of the depth of folk culture, drawn from its heritage.
FUNNY STUFF, this folk lark. You
hear some dire singer get up in
a singaround and you hope to God
nobody knows this is how you
spend your free time. Or you
urge friends to go and watch
real morris dancing rather than
depend on the That s Life version
(and the demise of that is
the best bit of media news for
years) and, of course, it's
Then some other day you hear
charmed magic from someone who
does it right and you ache with
the beauty of it. So why doesn't
everyone do it properly? Why
don't we all get it right? But
what is right? What does doing
it right mean?
There's sometimes a confusion,
particularly acute in Wales, as
to what folk is. It's often defined
as the music of the peasants,
the underclass, the dispossessed;
but that defines it
only in negatives. People aren't
pigs. It's not just the noises a
society happens to make. Oh, I
hear a reel. It must be an Irish
community. People do these
things because they mean something
to them. And what it meant
to them in nineteenth century
Ireland is probably different
from Wales in the fourteenth or
Scotland in the twentieth.
You can't step into the same
river twice. It's always changing
and it's always the same.
Music continues and adapts because
it works. It works for the
communities who use it. They may
no longer be regionally based.
They may be self-selecting communities,
gathering in a pub on
Thursday or Saturday nights but,
for them, it works. And it works
as a communi ty playing to itself,
not being entertained from
outside. That's why it needs to
constantly change. That's why we
had a revival.
In countries like Scotland,
Ireland and Wales, it might seem
a nonsense to talk about a folk
revival, because it was always
there. But that misses the point
and importance of the revival.
The revival was about re-fashioning
the culture into new expressions
for new groups. Bothy
Band and Planxty were clearly
about something different from
The Dubliners. The Albion Country
Band didn't have much in
common with The Spinners.
It's not the material that matters,
so much as the use it's
put to. Yet the material is important,
because of the use it
can be put to and because of its
extraordinary range, derives
from previous uses. It's not too
fanciful to see it as an old
piece of furniture, where the
patina of centuries shines
through. The word palimpsest
even comes to mind, but that's