I remember the very first Young Scottish Traditional Musician Award well. Myself, Clare McLaughlin and Elspeth Cowie had got together to discuss the possibility of starting an award that would help young Scottish musicians become professional musicians.
I had just been a judge at the Radio 2 Young Folk Awards which was also maybe in its first or second year and I really loved the format of it. Basically a semi-finals where all the musicians get together, hang out, learn some things, play a concert (where they’re judged with 6 musicians getting through to the final but not being told) and come back to the hostel for a big party. The reason we didn’t just join up with the Radio 2 Young Folk Award was because their upper age limit was 20 and for a musician to make a decision about becoming professional we felt the upper age limit should be 25.
We booked Wiston Lodge for the semi-finals, held a meeting with Colin Hynd and Celtic Connections to host the final (to which they were amazing about – and still are) and then set out to tell folks all about the opportunity that had arisen.
As is well documented the winner January 2001 was Gillian Frame and I remember being in a bar on Glasgow’s High Street at Finlay MacDonald’s Pressed for Time album launch and saying to Gillian “We’ve started a new Young Trad Award would you like to enter?”. We did this with lots of young musicians come October 2000 we had 12 semi-finalists. We asked professional musicians to come along and share their experiences with the youngsters and Malcolm Stitt and Dave Milligan were our first accompanists.
The semi-finals concert was held at Biggar Corn Exchange and the six musicians – fiddler Patsy Reid, flautist Kevin O’Neill, piper and accordionist Mairearad Green, Scots singer Steve Byrne, fiddler Gillian Frame and banjo player Celine Donohue made it through to the finals of January 2001.
It’s amazing to think we are now in the 14th year. We’ve met so many brilliant young musicians over the years and hope to meet lots more!! Don’t forget to enter this years BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award.