UK Americana Awards Finale - photo by Jonathan Stewart courtesy of Musicians Union

Thank You from the AMA-UK!

It’s been a week since AmericanaFestUK 2017 and I’m still smiling and enjoying it! We know it’s not just us here at AMA-UK HQ because every day we see more photos, read more reviews and listen to radio shows about the event.

So one week in and it falls to me as Chair of the board to write the thank you letters – I’ve sent plenty because we have an awful lot of people to be thankful to. But today I’m writing this open letter because I think you will want to join me in thanking these wonderful people.

I’m going to start with the AMA-UK board and events team:

Howard Mills and I work on AMA-UK’s day-to-day running all year round but in the lead up to the event it gets quite full on – overseeing the nominating, the voting, ticketing, the conference, and the showcases! I think you will all agree it was bigger and better than last year and as I’ve said before Howard always has the bigger picture in mind but only if the quality is better too – so watch out next year! Thanks Howard.

Trudie Myerscough-Harris once again produced an awards show that knocked our socks off! She gathered her team of hard working crew, family and friends to run the night – they took over St John at Hackney for two days to set it up, planned, timed and rehearsed so that we could all be relaxed and enjoying the wonderful night. This only happens when the production team all work perfectly together, and this comes down to Trudie being at the helm. I think you will agree she is pretty awesome!

Ian Thomas did something this year that was a first for us and for him – he slaved over our application for Arts Council England funding – and we got it! Anyone who has ever done this knows how much work it is so we can’t thank Ian enough for his time on that because it saved the day. These events are not cheap to run and without the funding it would not have happened. Ian also reads every contract, makes sure we are fully insured and with every penny accounted for. Like I’ve said before, he is our ‘grown up’! Luckily for him he truly loves the music and this year we had plenty of that to enjoy throughout the whole event.

Baylen Leonard has been instrumental in all areas of the event – he headed up the showcase team and the artist selection, and on the night he compered both stages at the Moth Club. Baylen was brilliant at the conference on the panel about strengthening the brand, and also interviewed the winners and VIP guests at the awards; we look forward to hearing his show.

Huge thanks goes out to Sarah Wainman who despite her very busy job at Help Musicians UK also found time to work with us at the planning stages of the conference. She scouted for venues, secured Chats Palace, and stepped in last minute to take over running the conference and working with the volunteers when Rachael was away.

Ralph McLean was responsible for selecting the artists for the songwriting workshop that was held in conjunction with our sponsors PRS – not an easy task to select just eight from the overwhelming number of applicants. Ralph supports us throughout the year on his radio show, covering the nominations and lead up to the big night and there will be a follow up show soon as well.

Thank you to Kim Bayley from ERA for helping with brilliant panellists for the conference, as well as always offering her conference room for our regular and lengthy board meetings. Here I must also thank Carole Lampard who organises these meetings and takes minutes. I thank all of ERA for coming out in force to the awards night – it was so great to have you all there.

Paul Fenn – last year I mentioned how he refuses to join the board properly, yet he still comes to every single meeting and I hope I can keep saying this for ever more! He is one of the longest standing associate members of the AMA-UK board, and his wealth of knowledge and contacts is impossible to quantify.

Thank you to Ethan Johns who again took time out of his crazy schedule to plan with Trudie to ensure the Awards show line up was strong, with light and shade throughout the evening. As a nominee he brought his band this year and what a joy that was to hear them perform ‘Time The Revelator’ during the show – look out for his fiddle player, Georgina Leach, we think she is a rising star for sure.

AMA Executive Director Jed Hilly came over from Nashville again to grace us with the passion, energy and joy that he always brings with him. He was fantastic at the conference on his panel and throughout the event asking the right questions and answering when only he would know the answers. He really is the biggest asset we have and that he sees the value in what we do brings us great pride. This year he was working closely with our sponsors TN Vacation, The Tennessee Tourist board and they brought the wonderful Sam Outlaw over to co-host the awards aftershow party, which I think you will agree was a taste of Nashville in Hackney and the best fun! Thanks must also go here to Michelle Aquilato for helping to make this happen.

Bob Harris… where do we start? Bob has the responsibility of naming the emerging artist each year; he is uniquely positioned to have the authority to do this – he sees so much live music, gets sent more CDs and links to new music than any of us can even imagine, he records all the Under The Apple Tree Sessions and is present at so many festivals and events – if a new artist is going to stand out, Bob is going to notice. We all want to sit and listen to Bob tell us his stories for EVER, so his ‘in Conversation’ part of the conference is always very busy, always a highlight, and always too short! Bob also hosts our awards show in such a way that we feel like we are sitting at home with him, he makes us all feel at ease. We are blessed, I can’t really find another way to say it.

Big thanks goes to Rachael Muller who organised and ran the conference and workshops at Chats Palace. She ensured everyone was informed and knew where to be at what time and what was happening throughout the day; she planned and organised the venue, the catering, the networking drinks and the volunteers.

Thank you to our PR team; Claire Horton for all UK press, Ben Allen Media, Elizabeth Cawein from Signal Flow for US Press coverage and Lucy Powell who kept our social media platforms buzzing.

I must mention our incredible team of volunteers who worked so hard for no other reason than a love of the community: Terry Muller, Yve Mary Barwood, Alan West, Andy Swann, David Wedge, Gerry Dauncey, Robert Welham, Pia Varma, Peter Feldon, Luca Balbo – thank you for all your hard work during the conference and showcases and awards – you stuck around for the least glamorous part of all – putting away all the chairs and tables! Thank you to Andy Washington for being wonderful at Moth Club and at the awards. Volunteers Caroline Steiger and Catherine Ashby not only put out and tidied away 300 chairs and tables but joined Trudie’s team during the awards. Special thanks goes out to Ken and Donna Brown who ran the Paper Dress Vintage venue on showcase night, and were amazing as part of the production team at the awards. Thanks to Catherine Snell assisting the presenters. Thanks to Trudie’s back stage team Miles Myerscough-Harris, Dylan Myerscough-Harris, Flo Myerscough-Harris, Agnes Eynon, Olivier Civale, Nathaniel Mullan and Siobhan Maher Kennedy (who came all the way from Nashville).

Sara Kelly again took over the kitchens at St John at Hackney and looked after us all back stage – she kept the full crew, artists and VIP guests fed and watered, always with a smile on her face, we are so lucky, huge thanks goes to Sara.

You can imagine being married to the mob isn’t easy so special thanks to Jamie Freeman, who designed the AmericanaFestUK logo, the brochure and the slides for the awards show. He worked non-stop for two days at the awards back stage, and was the imperious voice over the PA at the awards. Luckily this year he also got to do the thing most important to him – to perform with Angaleena Presley at the showcases and was selected by Ralph McLean to be part of the songwriting workshop.

Warren Wentworth – this guy! He was amazing at each and every part of the full event including the day before. He made sure the goody bags were all full, 200 of them; he worked non-stop at the conference for two days, on the door and helping with sound; he joined the showcase tech team at Moth Club and did an amazing job. ‘Woz’ was one of our stars of 2017 for sure.

A really special thanks goes to James Walker from Brighthelmstone Promotions and At The Helm Records. He was an absolute star at the showcases, doing all the advancing for 20 artists, and co-ordinating the backline and the green rooms for all three venues. He worked with the other volunteers and made sure he was overseeing all three venues all night right up until everyone else had left. He then made sure everything was in place for the fantastic aftershow party, again being the last to leave the venue. All three venues ran exactly to time. We really don’t have enough words to say how grateful we are.

Thanks to Adrian Basketfield and his team from Night Owl Productions. Adrian worked for months on the preparations for the Awards show and it showed; right down to the precise, minute-by-minute programming and the excellent communication skills required to make the show run so well. What a smooth operator, thanks for making us look good!

Thanks also to all of these people: John Henry for providing backline at the awards and showcases. Joe Porn, Maria Sosnowicz and the team at Music Glue operated the ticketing. Pig & Porter provided all the showcase bands and awards show backstage with wonderful Whispering Bob beer. WBC Bags For Life for the tote bags and Del Querns at Music’s Not Dead for screen-printing all those t-shirts.

Thank you to Crispin Parry and the team at British Underground for ongoing advice and support

Thank you to our sponsors:
TN Vacation Made in Tennessee – the aftershow party was awesome!
Southern Comfort – thank you Drew Young and the Southern Comfort UK team, the networking drinks was a great touch and those cocktails were very good!
MGR Weston Kay – thanks for letting us have Ian Thomas! Thank you for on going support in so many ways, and especially for verifying the results of the voting.
Thank you Proper Music Distribution, Yep Roc, Thirty Tigers, Chris Difford Songwriting Retreat, PPL and PRS for supporting us so generously.

Thank you to Arts Council England for awarding us funding.

Thank you to our Hackney venues – we are growing very fond of Hackney! Chats Palace, Moth Club, Paper Dress Vintage, Oslo and St John at Hackney. In particular, thanks to Anton Lockwood and Ed Lilo of DHP and Steve Dix for advice in the lead up to the event.

Thanks to Oslo’s general manager, Georgios Angelopoulos, for arranging a discount for delegates, artists and crew to eat at Olso. Thanks to Mother Clucker food truck for the fried chicken during the awards.

We owe enormous gratitude to all our panellists at the conference – we had double the number of delegates this year. Each panel was engaging and interesting as was seen by the level of interaction during Q&A after each discussion. We thank the panellists who came from as far afield as USA, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Scotland and Ireland. Thanks to: Sid Griffin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bob Harris, Andy Washington, Bert Pipers, Marie Theessink, Danny George Wilson, Bjorn Petterson, Baylen Leonard, Sara Silver, Jed Hilly, Fergus Denham, Doug Hall, Renae Brown, Andy Shearer, John Cleere, Tamsin Austin, Paul Spencer, Howard Mills, Martin Talbot, Natasha Youngs, Danny Tipping and Del Sawers.

Thank you to the songwriting panel: Beth Nielsen Chapman; Graham Gouldman; Angaleena Presley and Glen Phillips. You gave the writers some incredible advice that will take them further in their careers and this year there was a room full of audience too who were also benefitting from your wealth of knowledge and skill. Thanks to the writers themselves for putting their songs forward and performing them so well. Thanks too to PRS for sponsoring this workshop.

Did you notice the beautiful awards? We wanted to create something special; something that people would be proud to take home and put on display. The original concept by Russell Beck was then designed and hand-turned by Jaz Auden of 29 Woodwork, with centre labels designed by Jamie Freeman. Each one is unique and turned from different wood.

Thank you to the showcasing artists. We know from last year what can happen when you perform at these events: some of the artists have already been booked to play festivals in USA, Canada and Denmark as well as in the UK as a result of showcasing, and we hope to hear more good news soon – congratulations and good luck in equal measure! Thank you to: The Grande, Jo Harman, Murder Murder, Angaleena Presley, Robert Vincent, Carter Sampson, Walton Hesse, The Black Feathers, Emily Barker, Glen Phillips, Amanda Rheaume, The Honey Ants, Henry Senior, Worry Dolls, Flats & Sharps, Wild Ponies, Ben Smith & Jimmy Brewer, Amythyst Kiah, Hope In High Water and Jess Morgan

Thank you to all the artists who performed during the awards: Danni Nicholls, William the Conqueror, Ethan Johns, Sam Outlaw, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lewis & Leigh, Peter Bruntnell, Yola Carter (and her backing singers), Wildwood Kin and Richard Thompson – and thanks to Ethan’s house band, which included award winner Chris Hillman.

Thank you to the award presenters for joining our community and adding a touch of glamour, surprise and excitement: Angaleena Presley, Imelda May, Harry Shearer, Al Booth, Jools Holland, Guy Fletcher, Martin Talbot, Kiki Dee, Timothy B Schmit, Jim Lauderdale, Andy Fairweather Low.

A heartfelt thank you to the incomparable Van Morrison for coming along and accepting your award and saying such great things about the AMA-UK.

Thanks to our photographers who were there to capture all that glamour! Georgie d’Albiac Brewin (and her team), Chris Harvey, Redrospective, Richard Young Photographic, Jonathan Stewart courtesy of Musicians Union, WENN and Matt Spracklen from @London.

Thank you to Help Musicians UK, we were proud to show your video at the awards and are proud to be associated with you as our charity partners.

Last but not least, to you our members for joining this community, being part of the family. So many of you nominated and voted in the awards; the results are down to your choices and we value this so much. Thank you for attending and taking part in the conference, which sold out this year. Thank you for celebrating at the Awards with us, which again sold out. We have so many great things in the pipeline this year aimed at helping you develop your careers whether as artists, management, labels… let’s keep on working together.

Just one more person to thank… as many of you will know, AMA-UK co-founder Bob Butler passed away just two days before this year’s event. We had all hoped he would be in attendance as he was last year. All of us in the UK Americana music community should thank Bob, because none of this would be happening without him.

Gosh I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone! See you along the way.

Stevie Freeman
Chair, The Americana Music Association UK