Ealing Blues Festival founder honoured with UK Blues Award

Image above: Bob Salmons with his Unsung Hero Award presented by Paul Jones at the 2022 UK Blues Awards; photograph Roger Green

The founder of Ealing Blues Festival has been honoured with a UK Blues Award for his work in promoting live music and Ealing’s music heritage.

Robert Salmons, who performs under the name Robert Hokum, received the Unsung Hero award from singer and radio personality Paul Jones at a packed event on Sunday, 15 May, at the PowerHaus in Camden.

In 1987 Robert started the Ealing Blues Festival as a free event in Walpole Park. It has grown to be one of the most established blues festivals in the UK and is now London’s longest-running Blues Festival. Robert co-founded the Ealing Blues Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2011, alongside Alistair Young, to highlight the area’s music heritage and to work to create better opportunities for live music performance.

Born in Perivale Maternity Hospital in 1951 and brought up in Hanwell and West Ealing, Robert attended Ealing Grammar School where he studied for an HND diploma in Business Studies at Twickenham College of Technology. He first became involved in music by becoming Social Secretary of the Student Union.

Robert was presented with the award on the same day as the launch of the book Rock’s Diamond Year, which features a chapter on his teenage years during Ealing’s musical heyday.

Image above:  Bob Salmons with a copy of Rock’s Diamond Year speaking at the 2022 UK Blues Awards; photograph Roger Green

Blues is “an important but undervalued scene”

Presenting the award, Paul Jones said Robert was a “tireless promoter” of the west London blues scene.

Accepting his award, guitar-player Robert told the audience:

“I don’t think the artistic elite in this country takes seriously enough the cultural contribution of British blues to world culture. This is an important but undervalued scene. In America they acknowledge that it was what happened here that made people globally aware of a lot of the great blues artists and we woke Americans up to their defining music form.”

To loud applause, he told the awards audience that Britain should learn from the US and how they link geography with cultural heritage:

“Detroit, Chicago, Nashville and Memphis all do this well and we need to do it here. We can use that heritage to provide opportunities for new music and up-and-coming bands, which is how things progress.”

Robert added later:

“I’m very honoured to be the first recipient of the Unsung Hero Award from the UK Blues Federation. This shows the blues community’s appreciation of The Ealing Blues Festival being London’s longest-running Blues Festival and the importance of Ealing’s musical heritage as featured in the film Suburban Steps to Rockland and the new book Rock’s Diamond Year.”

“Still lots more to do” says Ealing Blues co-founder

Alistair Young, co-founder Ealing Club CIC was there to see the award presentation and said afterwards:

“Bob and I co-founded the CIC in December 2011 to highlight the area’s music heritage and to work to create better opportunities for live music performance.

“We started by raising the money for the blue plaque that’s now on the wall of the Ealing Club premises opposite Ealing Broadway Station and we helped to bring to the screen Suburban Steps To Rockland: The Story of the Ealing Club. However, as Bob told the UK Blues Awards, there’s still lots more to do to get west London the cultural respect it deserves for music.”

Robert will be performing as Robert Hokum with the Asian Blues fusion band Blues Dharma at the Jubilee event in Walpole Park on Sunday 5 June and with The Great West Groove Big Band at the two-day Ealing Blues Festival on Sunday 24 July.

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