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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Colin Randall Writing folk music reviews (124* d) RE: Writing folk music reviews 21 Jul 11

I was the previewer, reviewer and feature writer on folk music for The Daily Telegraph for 20 years and, as I have explained here and at on several occasions, I always regarded the role I had as that of a fan with a platform.

There was, potentially, a dilemma in that I was writing for a paper of the right on a form of music that generally attracts people who are, at the very least, left of centre. Yet I can say no attempt was ever made to censor or massage anything I wrote on political grounds. I may have offended a few of the performers about whom I wrote, but can recall none protesting that I had applied right-wing bias to a review (I am, in any case, to the left of centre in my own politics.

But Good Soldier Schweik's thread starter was unconnected with those issues. He offered his own seven preferences. Girl Friday, in the first reply, improved immeasurably on the list with her own plea for reviews to be "brief but interesting". But I would accept some of GSS's points (Nos 1,2 4, 5) and even agree, on No 7, that a reviewer should give plenty of thought to any hostile references before submitting the article. Fairness matters, as in an ideal world it would in all areas of journalism.

I think he is quite wrong to require the reviewer to "Remember that your love of music, and that promotion of folk roots music,is more important than anything else, including writing purple prose,OR personality clashes"

Leaving aside the last three words, I would say there is actually no obligation on the critic to love or wish to promote folk/roots music. Yes, as I said in opening this message, I am a fan. But as a reader of arts criticism of any kind, I am interested mostly in the quality of writing.

If the critic happens to have great knowledge of, and even passion for, the subject mater, as well as being an entertaining writer, so much the better.

But you have to accept that people working in a media arts dept, which is likely these days days to be understaffed and stingily resourced, may have to write about all sorts of things of little or no interest to him or her.

I have told the story before, but it bears repeating.

On my first local paper, the common complaint of amateur dramatic and operatic societies was that reviews would be entrusted to young reporters who had no knowledge or interest in the productions, resented the intrusion into their social lives and took revenge by rattling off waspish little pieces.

I tried to address this, when chief reporter in a district office, by sending along a reporter who sang, acted and very much knew what she was talking about. When she turned in a negative first-night review, which I accepted was her sincere appraisal of what she had seen, the complaint changed to: "How unfair to give the job to someone from a rival society."

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