I have spent the last two days working at the excellent Americana Conference 2019, hosted once again by the UK Americana Association at Hackney House, Curtain Road.  This consists of a series of panels and presentations, all of which were kicked off this year by keynote speaker Rhiannon Giddens, who introduced the 2019 Conference theme of diversity, equality and inclusivity.

It was particularly great to catch up with Association CEO Stevie Freeman, the legendary Bob Harris, Emily Barker, Robert Vincent, Chris Difford, Ricky Ross and Judie Tzuke during the Conference.  The itinerary included:

Tuesday 29 January

13:45pm  AMA-UK AmericanaFest UK, Welcome & Board Q&A
15.30pm  Artist Spotlight: Ralph McLean in conversation with Ray Benson from Asleep At The Wheel
17.00pm  Networking drinks: Night Tales, Hackney Central, hosted by Southern Comfort and The Bluegrass Situation with music from Chance McCoy and Rachel Baiman
18.00pm  Showcases in Hackney Central.

Wednesday 30 January

10:30am  Keynote: Rhiannon Giddens
11:45am  Diversity in Americana: Breaking Down The Barriers (chaired by the MU’s John Shortell).
13:30pm  Oh Sister, Where Art Thou – Women in Americana Music
14:15pm  Americana Music In Film, TV & Games
15:45pm  Are You Export Ready?
5.00pm  Networking drinks and Showcases in Hackney.

The exhibition ‘Market Place’ remained open throughout the event and included an MU presence alongside the Help Musicians stand.

Thursday 31 January

11.00am  Help Musicians UK Presents: Career Longevity in Americana, a Lifetime of Support
12.15pm  Songwriting Spotlight: Ricky Ross In Conversation with Fiona Bevan
14.00pm  Honing Your Craft At Songwriting Camps
14.45pm  Artist Spotlight: Bob Harris in conversation with John Oates
18.30pm  Doors open for the Awards Ceremony at Hackney Empire.

There are numerous showcase gigs in the evenings and these were captured for the MU by photographers Jonathan Stewart and Joanna Dudderidge.  I was able to get along to The Moth Club on the Wednesday evening and catch John Oates of Hall & Oates fame, a streamlined Asleep at the Wheel and singer/songwriter John Smith.  I then walked over with Jonathan to the Oslo, Hackney where we enjoyed a set by William the Conqueror.

Thursday’s final line-up of panels and interviews included Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue interviewing Fiona Bevan.  Fiona is an English singer-songwriter from Suffolk, noted for co-writing the song ‘Little Things’ with Ed Sheeran, which became a number one single in thirteen countries for One Direction, and for which Bevan and Sheeran received a BMI award.

The Conference is topped-off by a superb Awards ceremony at Hackney Empire, compered expertly – as ever – by Bob Harris.  Performances of note included Jade Bird, Bennett, Wilson & Poole, Mary Gauthier, Ethan Johns, Seth Lakeman, CJ Hillman, and Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Graham Nash.

I had arranged for MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge and his wife Tracey to attend and he reported that they enjoyed the evening immensely.  I had purchased two tickets for Julie and I – we had front row balcony tickets – and we certainly appreciated the opportunity to catch some great live music by a mix of homegrown and US artists.

The after show party took place locally at Night Tales and we were able to chat to comedian Rich Hall, Ricky Ross, The Wandering Hearts and the marvellous Bristol vocalist, Yola Carter.

In the early hours Julie and I caught a cab to the Holiday Inn at Whitechapel, our crib for the night.  A memorable few days.