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Musician Nick Hart awarded the Christian Raphael Prize 2021 in association with Cambridge Folk Festival




Nick Hart, a singer and multi-instrumentalist specialising in traditional English folk music, has been declared the winner of the Christian Raphael Prize 2021 in association with the Cambridge Folk Festival.

Nick Hart
Nick Hart

Launched at the festival in 2018, this prize aimed at developing young talent contributes £2,400 a year towards the travel and marketing costs of touring, as well as time in a rehearsal space or recording studio.

Also guaranteed is a showcase spot in the Club Tent at the 2022 Folk Festival – one of five artists spotted as ‘ones to watch’ during the year – which leads to a slot on Stage 2 the following year.

Cambridge Folk Festival manager, Rebecca Stewart, said: “I’m thrilled that Nick won. He’s such an interesting performer who finds and sings little-known songs and sings them in a really clever and engaging way. The panel was unanimous in the decision and felt that the prize would really help progress his career. I’m excited to see what happens next for him.”

Nick Hart. Picture: Paul Blakemore
Nick Hart. Picture: Paul Blakemore

Previous winners are Mishra and in 2019, Katherine Priddy, who both played the festival’s emerging talent stage, The Den. A special guest recently on Mark Radcliffe’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, Katherine talked about her debut album, The Eternal Rocks Beneath, and Nick Hart was also announced as this year’s Christian Raphael Prize winner.

The prize was established and is funded by inspirational figure and keen supporter of Cambridge Folk Festival’s commitment to emerging young talent, Christian Raphael MBE. A 34-year-old man with severe and multiple learning disabilities who communicates non-verbally, Christian Raphael has been attending the Cambridge Folk Festival for many years.

Nick Hart, who is originally from Cambridge – he grew up in Romsey, just off Mill Road – told the Cambridge Independent: “It’s nice to have some recognition at a very strange time for everyone in the industry.”

Nick Hart. Picture: Paul Blakemore
Nick Hart. Picture: Paul Blakemore

The 31-year-old, who now lives in Bristol, admits that he was surprised when he first heard, saying: “Looking at the previous winners, they’re all so much more fresh-faced and full of obvious youthful vigour whereas, despite not being very successful as a folk singer, I feel like I’ve been at it for a while. But I think maybe for that reason it’s even more touching to have been chosen for it.

“We haven’t really been able to do our job very much over the last 18 months, so that lovely feedback you get from audiences is something I think we’ve all been missing as artists – so to have someone recognise the work that you do as having some value is a wonderful thing and much needed for my own sense of self, without wishing to get too grandiose about it!”

Nick Hart. Picture: Paul Blakemore
Nick Hart. Picture: Paul Blakemore

Although he generally covers traditional English folk songs – while adding his own touches and arrangements – Nick also enjoys a parallel career writing music for theatre. He has been a professional musician for around 10 years.

“It wasn’t till I was in the second half of my 20s that I started concentrating on trying to do the solo stuff, the kind of act that I do now, and to try to really make a go of it,” he said.

“I missed out on all those helping hands that there are out there for young folk musicians – the various schemes and awards and things that are designed to give young performers a leg-up. I sort of felt like I’d missed my chance so it’s very heartening to have been given this.”

Nick Hart. Picture: Paul Blakemore
Nick Hart. Picture: Paul Blakemore

Nick attended the Cambridge Folk Festival “most years in some form” throughout his teens and believes he played The Den around 10 years ago, adding that he was due to play it in 2020 and this year – “but obviously that hasn’t happened,” he said.

Talking about the prize, Christian’s mother, Vicki Raphael, said: “After a hiatus in 2020 we have been so pleased to run the prize online this year. We watched so many fantastic artists and it was tough to choose a winner, but we are really looking forward to seeing how Nick Hart’s career develops over the coming year.

“It has been brilliant over the last few years for Christian and his family to follow the success of both Mishra and Katherine Priddy, the previous winners. This year’s prize comes at a time when support for artists is greatly needed. We derive such joy from following the artists and are delighted to be involved.”

Nick Hart. Picture: Paul Blakemore
Nick Hart. Picture: Paul Blakemore

The shortlist for this year’s prize was drawn from a list put forward by bookers at The Den and the judging panel were: Rebecca Stewart, Christian Raphael and Vicki Raphael, development manager Amie Hoyland, Cambridge Folk Festival programmer Eddie Barcan, and publicist Richard Wootton.

Nick recorded a new album at home during the first lockdown and hopes to release it in the autumn.

For more information on Nick, visit nickhartmusic.com.

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