We have given the letters page a higher status, bringing it to the front of the magazine and giving it the title of "Opinion" rather than "Editorial". This may appear to be a minor change but we have done it because we think that the opinions of our readers are important. We are not seeking to be controversial but we do recognise that statements which cause a reaction have at least made people think.
In the past we have not been afraid of admitting when we thought we have been wrong. Many people have told us that we shouldn't do this, but we feel that it gives strength to the points that we hold our ground on. In any case, most of what we express are matters of opinion rather than fact. Opinions are formed from experience and some knowledge and holding on to opinions in the light of changing experience leads to dead ends. "The F Word" and "Folk Club Concern" in the last issue resulted in some flak. This time I feel that we can respond to being told we are wrong with a fairly confident - "I don't think so." Time will tell.
We can't escape the fact that people are doing things that have an influence on traditional music. Institutions such as the Arts Councils talk about "development", others talk about "promotion". One of the roles of a magazine like this is be a forum for ideas and for sensible criticism. Mistakes have and will continue to be made and good ideas and projects will continue to be introduced. People in positions of power tend to guard that position, another reason why the pages of this magazine should be open to our readers.
We referred to our item on folk club decline as a warning. Hopefully it was far enough in advance for people to take note and many clubs are still in a healthy state. Decline in the folk club network is true in some areas - and this is a matter of fact rather than opinion - but is less true or even untrue in others. We are pleased that so many clubs are reporting a good state of health. If our warning leads to some action and the club network becomes stronger we will be happy to be proved wrong. We stand by the warning though, not because we want to talk the clubs down, rather because we feel that they are too valuable to lose by neglect.
Folk clubs have been a nurturing ground for many singers and musicians. In some areas we now have an abundance of talent, especially instrumental performers, yet clubs are struggling sometimes in competition with sessions. Sessions have their role but the talent they encourage may eventually want to step back to take advantage of the performance platform offered by the clubs. There is a growing shortage of performance opportunities in relation to the number of performers - ask any club or festival organiser about the number of requests they get for bookings. Formal performance is not essential to all traditional music making but without it something is lost.