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57 f


Alan third left in the studio at Real World, explaining to Spiro how to write a hit single.


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ne of James’ proudest moments, he says, “came from seeing Shirley Collins’ talk, America Over The Water in a Bloomsbury bookshop. I got in touch and sug- gested she turn it into a proper studio theatre show, which toured in 2005. I stayed friends with Shirley,


she’s a dear friend.”


Having focused Arts Council funding on folk music, he left in 2006 to set up his own artist management, tour production and arts consultancy company. Within a year, in 2007 James was appointed chair of EFDSS, by which time the society had secured its status as a National Portfolio Organisation. These are recog- nised as representing some of the best arts practices in the world and funding is guaranteed for three-year periods, facilitating more effective long-term planning.


James was inspired to set up Hold Tight Management after Andy Cutting mentioned Spiro to him. “I heard The Sky Is A Blue Bowl and I thought it was incredible. I wanted to manage them.” James started working with Spiro around the same time he was producing the Imagined Village tour for Simon Emmerson, which for him brought a full-circle Martin Carthy moment. “I can distinct- ly remember a Martin Carthy solo show in Hull and I loved every minute. It was amazing again to see him with Imagined Village, with his encyclopaedic knowledge of songs and stories. I’m so glad to have met and worked with him”


Later asked to be the Executive Chair at the Welsh Music Foundation, James was part of the consortium that brought WOMEX to Cardiff in 2013. His involvement with Womex had begun almost twenty years before when he DJ’d at the 1995 event in Berlin and was later invited to be a juror at Womex in Gateshead whilst still at the Arts Council. But his work in Wales raising the profile of Welsh arts brought him to the attention of 9 Bach, who asked him to manage them too.


James says, “For me, working with 9 Bach as a Welsh language band, is fascinating.” His experience in world music has made him unafraid of the language barrier. And his Welsh experience has expanded his sense of the world wide web of human interconnec- tion that has nothing to do with the internet.


There’s a Welsh word he says, hiraeth, that relates to a con- cept of our connection with the landscape of home, of missing something or someone. It’s melancholic and uplifting, like duende in flamenco, or saudade in fado or Bosnian sevdah. Another, anian, means nature, what you’re made of, your soul and bones and how you connect with others, “the gut feeling like when you meet someone and you know you’re going to be mates.”


But for James, most importantly, meaning is not in the lan- guage when it comes to songs. It’s in all other aspects of the music and is a means by which we can experience our interconnection with one another wherever we’re from. I just wish he’d get a job in mainstream media. He might help open up our increasingly closed-minded prevailing culture, its intolerance fuelled by resis- tance to programming music that’s not in English. (It’s not popu- lar! Well it might be if we heard it.) Still, in fRoots’ sunny wide- open spaces, that James didn’t think he’d get his grade A in the subject is something of which we can be glad.


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Photo: York Tilyer


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