two men sit in front of four screens VJing with headphones on and open mac laptops
Addictive TV 'Orchestra of Samples' Photo by Joe Haydon

OPEN CALL: English Folk Expo Unlimited Commission

As Unlimited looks to support Music in new ways, we announce a new partnership and opportunity for musicians. Isabella Tulloch, Programme Manager at Unlimited, talks to Tom Besford, Chief Executive for English Folk Expo…

So tell us a little more about English Folk Expo?

English Folk Expo (EFEx) supports the English folk, roots and acoustic music industry through showcasing programmes and artist development. We’ve been running the showcase since 2012 which takes place alongside the Manchester Folk Festival each October. We present around 40 artists to approximately 180 music industry from the UK and beyond. In 2017 we were delighted to be invited to become an Arts Council England Sector Support Organisation which enabled us to develop our programmes and aspirations to grow the sector. In a nutshell, EFEx encourages venues and festivals to book more English folk, roots and acoustic artists whilst also helping those artists to capitalise on new opportunities.

What is the EFEx Artist Mentoring Programme and who is it for?

Over the years we’ve been running the showcase, many delegates (especially international delegates) said they loved the music at the event but that they didn’t feel enough of the musicians were ‘export ready’. ie they were uneasy about inviting them to their festivals outside of the UK because they weren’t confident that enough of the artists understood the complexity of touring internationally. Coupled with this, many artists have spoken to us about the difficulty they had in building their full time professional career. In more niche genres of music such as folk, jazz and roots, there is less professional support around for artists. This means that the individual artist needs to run all aspects of the micro business which is their career. We wanted to create a programme which would equip emerging artists with the skills, knowledge and networks to help them understand how to develop their career and capitalise on the opportunities for export which are being created in part by the growth of showcase events like EFEx. This programme is aimed at those emerging folk, roots and acoustic musicians who are looking to take the next step in their career, develop a clear pathway and expand their professional learning and networks with a particular focus on export, industry and showcasing.

So why partner with us? Why do you specifically want disabled artists involved in this project?

When selecting artists to showcase at English Folk Expo, we’re acutely aware that the vast majority of the artists at a level where we could present them are from a very similar background. Whilst many festivals and venues are considering accessibility and inclusivity for their audiences, this is not necessarily the case backstage. Part of the reason behind this is that there are very few disabled artists regularly performing in this part of the music industry. Given that most of the industry exists on personal contacts and networks, it is difficult to change this without actively seeking out disabled artists to present on our showcase stages. This programme is an opportunity to support a disabled artist to a position where they can be selected for showcases, which will give them a platform to present their music to festivals, venues, labels and other music industry professionals. We hope that this will encourage people to consider access issues for artists as well as audiences, making it easier for other disabled artists to perform.

How competitive is this opportunity?

This is the first time we’ve run the programme with an open application, so we have no idea how competitive it may be for places. Hopefully we’ll be inundated with amazing music, introducing us to loads of great emerging English folk, roots and acoustic musicians.

Unlimited is delighted to be partnering on the English Folk Expo Artist Mentoring Programme 2019-2020, Unlimited will be working with English Folk Expo to support a place on the programme for a musician who identifies as disabled. The programme runs from October 2019 to October 2020 and will support selected artists towards export readiness.

You can apply here


Applications close on Friday 14th June 2019

The programme works with partners across the music industry including the Featured Artists Coalition, Americana Music Association UK, FOCUS Wales, Manchester Folk Festival and Cambridge Folk Festival. The programme is also supported by PRS Foundation and Arts Council England.