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Behind the scenes at the Progressive Music Awards 2016

The great and the good of the prog world gathered beneath Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre at the start of September for the Progressive Music Awards. This is the inside story of what happened…

The Prog Awards are the only ones that mean something.

Before tonight’s Awards, Rick Wakeman, who’s been to the previous four, is explaining to Trevor Rabin, who’s never been before, just what makes this event so special. “Seriously, people care who wins one of these awards,” the keyboard master, and recipient of the inaugural Prog God honour, continues. “It really matters to
them, whereas at other awards, nobody gives a toss who wins.”

“Well, even in LA where I live, the Prog Awards are well known,” replies Rabin.

The guitarist’s role in this year’s ceremony is being kept under wraps for the moment because he’s to be a surprise guest right at the end of the night, when Jon Anderson is anointed as this year’s Prog God.

Showing his eagerness for the occasion, Wakeman and his manager Brian Lane are the first through the door. “I always like to be early – it’s easier to get to the bar!” quips Wakeman, and it won’t be his last merry remark on the night.

There’s a vast array of talent here. As usual, it spans all styles and ages. Andy Summers is almost taken aback not only by the throng of artists surrounding him, but also by the location. “We’re below the Globe Theatre and that seems appropriate,” explains the guitarist, here to pick up the Guiding Light award. “After all, whatever else he might have been, William Shakespeare was definitely prog!”

Elsewhere, close to the bar, Matthew Wright – just like last year, the host for this evening – is having a serious discussion with Kavus Torabi from Knifeworld and Gong about all‑time favourite gigs, which range from Magma to Sonic Youth. Torabi also gets very agitated – in a good way – when he recognises Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood.

“I have to meet him,” he exclaims. “I just love Maiden so much! I was even interviewed once for their fan club magazine.”

Even in LA where I live, the Prog Awards are well known.

And later on, Torabi and Smallwood do get to have an in-depth chat. But then that’s one of the great pleasures of the night – everyone is on an equal footing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve headlined Wembley Stadium, sold millions of records or just released your debut album, this is a family reunion, where people who’ve never met are delighted to see one another. It’s the one time in the year when the progressive community comes together in a spirit of friendship and encouragement.

As Prog Editor Jerry Ewing points out in his welcoming speech, there are people here from literally all over the world, as far apart as Poland, Mexico and Russia. But before the awards get underway, Purson treat us to a brief but well-received acoustic performance, which begins with a cover of Curved Air’s Backstreet Luv. It’s a fine way to usher in the main purpose of the gathering.

First, there’s a timely homage to those we’ve lost during the past year, with images of Keith Emerson, Lemmy, David Bowie, Dave Swarbrick and others flashing on the screen to respectful silence throughout the hall.

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