WINNERS OF THE 4th UKBLUES CHALLENGE 2017 ANNOUNCED
Photo courtesy Ashwyn Smyth
All other photos courtesy Alan White (Earlyblues.com)
The 4th UK Blues Challenge took place on Sunday 10th September 2017 at the iconic Cavern Club in Liverpool organized by the UK Blues Federation (UKBlues). At stake for the five contestants was the opportunity to represent the UK at the 34th International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis in the USA in January 2018 and at the 8th European Blues Challenge (EBC) in Hell, Norway in March 2018. The UK’s representative in 2017 was the Kaz Hawkins Band who came home the winners of the EBC.
Four of the five bands participating in the Challenge were selected by a panel of more than 250 people involved in and with the blues in the UK whilst the fifth band was selected by the Jessica Foxley Unsigned Project from amongst the eight bands that appeared under their banner at the Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival, Colne last month (August) The five bands came from across the UK and demonstrated the breadth, variety, quality and individuality that exists in the blues in the UK. In order of appearance, the bands were:
The Robert J Hunter Band
Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion
Each band delivered an exciting and varied thirty minute set featuring mainly original music which demonstrated how broad a church the blues is in the UK, much to the delight of the large audience at the event. Deciding upon a winner was a tough job for the panel of six judges drawn from across the blues spectrum and including a number of musicians, festival/venue organizers and members of UKBlues’ Board. The judges were, in alphabetical order, Connie Lush, Chris Powers, Kaz Hawkins, Nick Westgarth, Rosy Greer and Victor Brox.
In an incredibly close vote LaVendore Rogue were declared the winners and, in addition to representing the UK at the International and European Blues Challenges and the massive exposure this will offer, the band will also be offered the opportunity to play at a number of top blues festivals/events during 2018.
Last year’s UK Blues Challenge winner and UKBlues Board member Kaz Hawkins presented a somewhat stunned LaVendore Rogue with the winner’s trophy and certificate.
As an added treat, after the winners had played a brief ‘victory’ set, they were joined on stage by Connie, Kaz, Kyla and Victor for a jam which was truly unique and very special.
Joel Fisk of LaVendore Rogue said after the Challenge: "We're delighted to have won the 2017 UK Blues Challenge. After many years of hard work we're thrilled that our take on The Blues is being recognised. We're really excited to see where this opportunity will take us. Our thanks go to UKBlues for organizing this excellent event."
In addition to the Kaz Hawkins Band, previous UK representatives at the EBC have included Red Butler, Laurence Jones, BabaJack and Ben Poole.
Ashwyn Smyth, Chair of UKBlues said: ‘This was the third UK Blues Challenge that we have organized and, from the feedback we have received, it was definitely the best!
Certainly holding it at such an iconic venue made it even more special and UKBlues would like to thank everybody at the Cavern Club for their support and assistance which served to ensure a great event. Particular thanks to Ricky Cheung, the sound engineer who did a superb job. We were delighted to be bringing the blues back to the Cavern 60 years on as they celebrate their 60th anniversary.
Our thanks also go to the bands who took part and very much entered into the spirit of the event. It was great to see them sharing a single ‘band room’ and encouraging each other, swapping ideas etc. Our six judges had an unenviable task choosing a winner and did a fantastic and very difficult job for which we thank them most sincerely.
We would also like to thank our sponsors whose financial support of the Challenge took away some of the concerns about covering the costs of the event and enabled us to give the participating bands a contribution towards their costs. This year we received sponsorship from Proper Records, BiGiAm Promotions & Management, Bluesdoodles, Digital Blues, EarlyBlues.com, Lancashire Blues Archive and Raven & Blues.
It is clear that those who attended this year’s Challenge thoroughly enjoyed the very fine musicians who played for them and being at such an excellent venue. This was another big step forward as we look to establish the UK Blues Challenge as an event that we hope will become one of the must attend events of the blues’ year.
This was a night that celebrated the best in UK blues and demonstrated only too clearly the quality and range of the talent that is all too often unsung in this frequently ignored musical genre. The event also raised funds which we, UKBlues, can use both to further our aims and to make a contribution towards the not inconsiderable costs that LaVendore Rogue will incur attending the two Challenges.’
UKBlues will be setting up a crowd funding page soon to raise additional funds to help the LaVendore Rogue attend both the European and International Blues Challenges. Details will be available shortly.
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For more photos of all contestants and special guests click here
With the 4th UK Blues Challenge less than two weeks away and to seek to answer questions being posed, we would like, once again, to explain what it is all about, how the contestants are selected, and what it all means for the winners.
What is the UK Blues Challenge (UKBC)?
An annual event organised by the UK Blues Federation (UKBlues) at a different location in the UK at which a number of bands/acts compete in front of a panel of judges drawn from across the blues spectrum.
The winning band/act is invited to represent the UK at the following year’s International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis and European Blues Challenge (EBC) which is held in a different European country each year.
We are very pleased that this year’s event will take place at the legendary Cavern Club in Liverpool on Sunday 10th September 2017 starting at 16.00. More details can be found at www.cavernclub.org and www.ukblues.org UKBlues is excited to be bringing the blues back to the Cavern sixty years on!
How are the contestants in the UKBC chosen?
As an Active Member of the EBU meeting the EBU’s laid down criteria (see EBC rules here) and the sole UK Affiliate of the Blues Foundation, (see IBC rules here) UKBlues are honoured to be invited to create and manage the selection process to choose the band or artist who will represent the UK at these prestigious events each year.
The first stage of the process this year saw a panel of more than 250 people from across the blues spectrum in the UK which included the membership of UKBlues, all UK based Active Members of the EBU, members of the Independent Blues Broadcasters Association, festival and gig promoters, writers (both online and print media), musicians, fans and blues supporters etc. being invited to submit the three UK acts that they felt would best represent the UK at the EBC and IBC.
Members of this panel were asked to place their choices in order (first, second, third) and points were awarded according to the position in which the acts were placed by the panel members.
The 4 top scoring available acts after this process was complete were invited to participate in the UKBC where the contestants will perform in front of a panel of judges who will use the same criteria to award points to the contestants as are used at the EBC and IBC.
In a new departure this year, a fifth band was invited to participate which was selected from the 8 bands invited by Jessica Foxley Unsigned to play at the Great British Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Festival which took place in Colne over the August Bank Holiday weekend – These bands are, generally, under the radar and being selected to play at Colne is a big step up for them.
The band was chosen by a panel of representatives of the Jessica Foxley Unsigned project and was chosen on the strength of their performance at Colne.
The winner of the UKBC will be invited to represent the UK at both the 2018 EBC and IBC.
What are the selection and judging criteria?
When making their selections, the members of the panel are asked to bear in mind the following EBC rules which apply:
- The leader of the band must have the nationality of the country he/she represents.
- At least 50% of the members of the contestant bands must reside in the country they represent.
- Acts who participated in a previous edition of the EBC, but did not win, may compete again after a period of 3 years.
- Bands of which half or more of the musicians participated in a previous EBC with another band, may compete again after a period of 3 years.
- Bands of which less than half of the musicians participated in a previous EBC with another band, may compete again after a period of 2 years.
Contestants at the UKBC, EBC and IBC are expected to perform at least 50% original music in their set and they are awarded points using the following criteria as laid down by the EBU:
- Instrumental talent
- Vocal talent
- Stage presence
- Blues content
This process is the same as that which has been used in previous years and is approved by the Blues Foundation and the European Blues Union.
A selection panel created by UKBlues formed of nearly 200 musicians, writers, promoters, venues, festivals, radio presenters, PR/promotions, agents, record labels, and fans, including all UK Active Members of the European Blues Union (EBU) and representatives of the UK’s previous European Blues Challenge (EBC) contestants has chosen four artists to compete in the latest UK Blues Challenge.
The top four acts available to compete have been invited to take part in the UK Blues Challenge, which is being jointly promoted by EBU Active Member Pete Feenstra and UKBlues and which will take place on Saturday 24th October 2015 at the Boom Boom Club in Sutton in front of a panel of judges drawn from within the blues community chosen by UKBlues and Pete Feenstra, but who, for obvious reasons, will remain confidential until after the Challenge. They will use the same criteria to award points to the contestants as is used at the EBC.
The acts in order of appearance on the 24th are:
19.45 – 20.15 – Katie Bradley
20.30 – 21.00 – Malaya Blue
21.15 – 21.45 – Brothers Groove
22.00 – 22.30 – Red Butler
UKBlues congratulates the acts on their selection to take part in the UK Blues Challenge.
The winner of the UK Blues Challenge will represent the UK at the 6th European Blues Challenge, organised by the EBU, and which will take place in Torrita di Siena, Italy on 7-8-9th April 2016.
For more details about the UK Blues Challenge and how you can pre-book your tickets visit Pete Feenstra's site or call +44 (0) 20 8791 9078