Birmingham Music Awards 2020 go online

Stephen Pennell watches the show and gets a surprise.

Against all the odds, the third annual Birmingham Music Awards was live-streamed from The Crossing in Digbeth last Thursday.

It was originally planned to hold the ceremony at the Town Hall in May, but COVID-19 put paid to that, and was still hanging around to rain on the parade when it was rescheduled for Bonfire Night. But thanks to the fighting spirit of the organisers, Birmingham’s vibrant music scene finally got the big night its resilience and talent deserves.

After a humorous skit involving BBC WM Introducing’s Alex Noble and indomitable BMAs co-founder Jo Jeffries, convivial host Alex reprised his Master of Ceremonies role from last year, and did a tremendous job of pulling it all together from the stage of The Crossing. Sadly there are no tales of rock and roll debauchery to tell this year – unless you count the few bottles of cider despatched with aplomb in my living room while I watched proceedings on my laptop – but the quick-fire nature of the announcements, recorded messages from long-term legends like Brian Travers, Ace from Skunk Anansi and current superstars like Nathan Dawe, coupled with live performances from Lady Sanity, The Novus, and The Nu meant there was never a dull moment.

Despite the celebratory mood, there was poignancy too as tributes were paid to Pete Felton and Josh Wilson, who both passed away recently. Pete was a popular busker around town who will be remembered with his own posthumously-named award, won this time by Nehanda, while the club night founded by Josh – FOLIÉE – triumphed in its category.

Biggest winners of the night were The Clause, who won Best Indie, Best Song for the brilliant In My Element, and Best Band – some achievement when one considers that UB40, The Twang, Swim Deep and Jaws were among the nominees. Another multiple winner was Reuben James, who stepped into the limelight with his debut long-player Adore (Best Album) after leaving his role as an integral member of Sam Smith’s band. He also claimed the Best R&B/Soul prize.

Small Heath MC Jaykae won two awards as well (Best Solo Male, Best Grime Act), while omnipresent Kingshurst rapper Lady Leshurr was a winner for the second year running. Jeff Lynne of ELO, ironically currently enjoying a new lease of life, was recognised for Lifetime Achievement, and Napalm Death, who’s lead singer Barney Greenway was among my best customers when I used to sell the Heroes & Villains fanzine outside Villa Park, won the Cultural Impact In Music award, which is fair enough when one considers the world-wide influence of Grindcore, the genre they more or less invented at The Mermaid in Sparkhill in the 1980s.

The Novus won Best Video for their stunning visual for PMF, and there was worthy recognition for host venue The Crossing and the Castle and Falcon in Moseley.

But the highlight of the show for me was the Brum Bastion award, won by some dodgy blogger-come-blagger from Chelmsley Wood, whose barely-literate ramblings are often featured on this site.