Here are all the background details of the challenge process, how contestants are chosen, the selection criteria and what opportunities are offered to the winners.
What is the UK Blues Challenge (UKBC)?
An annual event organised by the UKBlues Federation (UKBlues) at a different location in the UK at which a number of bands/acts compete in front of a panel of judges drawn from across the blues spectrum.
The winning band/act is invited to represent the UK at the following year’s International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, USA and European Blues Challenge (EBC) which is held in a different European country each year.
How are the contestants in the UKBC chosen?
As an Active Member of the EBU meeting the EBU’s laid down criteria (see EBC rules here) and the sole UK Affiliate of the Blues Foundation, (see IBC rules here) the UKBlues Federation are honoured to be invited to create and manage the selection process to choose the band or artist who will represent the UK at these prestigious events each year.
The first stage of the process is for a panel of more than 250 people from across the blues spectrum in the UK being invited to submit the three UK acts that they felt would best represent the UK at the EBC and IBC. The panel includes all members of the UKBlues Federation, all UK based Active Members of the EBU, members of the Independent Blues Broadcasters Association, festival and gig promoters, writers (both online and print media), musicians, fans and blues supporters etc.
Members of this panel are asked to place their choices in order (first, second, third) and points are awarded according to the position in which the acts were placed by the panel members.
The 4 top scoring available acts after this process is completed are invited to participate in the UKBC where the contestants perform in front of a panel of judges who will use the same criteria to award points to the contestants as are used at the EBC and IBC.
In recent years a fifth band is invited to participate which is selected from the 8 bands invited by the Jessica Foxley Stages Project to play at the Great British Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Festival which takes place in Colne, Lancashire over the August Bank Holiday weekend. These bands are, generally, ‘under the radar’ and being selected to play at Colne is a big step up for them.
The band is chosen by a panel of representatives of the Jessica Foxley Stages Project and is chosen on the strength of their performance at Colne.
What are the selection and judging criteria?
When making their selections, the members of the panel are asked to bear in mind the following EBC rules which apply:
– The leader of the band must have the nationality of the country he/she represents.
– At least 50% of the members of the contestant bands must reside in the country they represent.
– Acts who participated in a previous edition of the EBC, but did not win, may compete again after a period of 3 years.
– Bands of which half or more of the musicians participated in a previous EBC with another band, may compete again after a period of 3 years.
– Bands of which less than half of the musicians participated in a previous EBC with another band, may compete again after a period of 2 years.
Contestants at the UKBC, EBC and IBC are expected to perform at least 50% original music in their set and they are awarded points using the following criteria as laid down by the EBU:
– Instrumental talent
– Vocal talent
– Stage presence
– Blues content
This process is the same each year and is approved by the Blues Foundation and the European Blues Union.
What opportunities are offered to the winners?
The winner of the UK Blues Challenge is invited to represent the UK at both the International and European Blues Challenges.