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Meet the judges

14 April, 2016

Having made it through the shortlisting from thousands of submissions for 2016, and battled it out in the public vote to whittle this down to six, our Breakthrough finalists now have to impress the judges at the Live Finals at 60 Million Postcards on Saturday 16th April.

Meet the panel of industry experts with the challenging task of choosing two winners, who’ll go on to play at Larmer Tree Festival in July…

James Shepard

James Shepard, Larmer Tree Festival founder and director
Legend has it that the concept for Larmer Tree Festival was born when James came across the Larmer Tree Gardens in 1990, whilst out jogging on the Cranborne Chase. What started out as a 12 hour party for 100 people has grown into a five-day extravaganza for an audience of 4000.

James Shepard is founder and director of Larmer Tree Festival, now in it’s 26th year. Asked about his role, he’ll reply, “It’s all my fault, I had the original dream way back in 1990!” James is still heavily involved in the music programming and the entire festival infrastructure, plus making sure the sums add up at the end of the year.

Having been on the judging panel since the inception of the Breakthrough Awards, James has been responsible for discovering and supporting emerging talent, including previous winners who’ve gone on to play numerous other major festivals, support headline acts on tour and return to Larmer Tree Festival over the years!

Kristian Davis-Downes

Kristian Davis-Downs, Label Manager at Naim Records
Kristian Davis-Downs is an accomplished music and media executive who brings more than 15 years of experience to his current role as Label Manager at Naim Records. He previously served as Head of Operations at Beggars Group, the largest and most influential independent group of labels in Europe home to 4AD, Matador Records, Rough Trade, XL Recording and Young Turks.

His time at Beggars Group included working Adele’s 21, the best-selling album of the 21st century in the U.K, he was also instrumental in album campaigns from the likes of Radiohead, The White Stripes, Bon Iver, Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, Grimes, The National and countless more.

Naim Records was founded by Julian Vereker in 1973 and has licensed records by English singer-songwriter and composer Imogen Heap, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Huey Morgan, MOBO Award winning Sons of Kemet and most notably Mercury Award nominee ESKA, who’ll be appearing at Larmer Tree Festival this year.

Naim Records, under Davis-Downs will be looking to sign UK-based and international acts and is already in discussions with some artists. “Naim Records will have an incredibly eclectic approach to who we work with in the future, with a firm focus on emerging talent,” said Downs.

Simon Emmerson

Simon Emmerson, Afro Celt Sound System
Simon Emmerson is a highly esteemed record producer, guitarist and DJ. In 2009 he founded ECC Records with Lush’s Mark Constantine. He’s a founder member of Afro Celt Sound System, the world music fusion collective who’ve spent the past 20 years finding kindred spirits around the world, forging a reputation for exhilarating shows and compiling an accomplished catalogue of albums. They’ve come a long way, and are still constantly taking their audience to new undiscovered places. As Emmerson points out – “multiculturalism isn’t on our agenda; it’s our life.”

He’s the creator of folk collective The Imagined Village, a collaborative work from many roots artists. In another project, Simon worked with fellow composers and musicians Simon Richmond and Richard Evans from The Imagined Village to create music for the Lush Spa, themed around English sounds and identity that would be similar to a sound installation. “I wanted to do something that represented cutting edge English culture but was rooted in the past and tradition,” explains Simon Emmerson. “So we looked at doing an insightful look into Englishness, and what better way to do that than with birdsong?… Birdsong roots you back to the way sounds used to be before sound pollution…It’s a return to the source.”

Simon will be appearing with Afro Celt Sound System at Larmer Tree Festival this year, performing on Friday night and guaranteed to get the party going for the start of the weekend!

Laura Lewis-Paul

Laura Lewis-Paul, Founder and Director at Saffron Records
Laura Lewis-Paul is a skilled Project and Programme Management Professional with six years’ experience running high profile events and festivals. With expertise in and a passion for working with young people in a creative context, Laura established Saffron Records, a female youth record label based in Bristol, in 2015.

Part of the Princes Trust Enterprise Scheme, Saffron Records creates a supportive and creative space for younger generations to collaborate with one another, offering apprenticeships in partnership with Boomsatsuma, Futureboogie Management and Plaster Creative Communications, signing young female artists aged 16-24, and offering a schools programme including music production, DJing and MCing.

Working with Saffron’s recently signed acts, Laura manages a team of young apprentices to coordinate artist development opportunities, studio recordings, contracts, gigs and workshops. Laura is also one of the non- executive directors of Bristol Women in Music, and was recently selected by Rife Magazine as one of Bristol’s Top Five Women in Music for her work with Saffron Records.

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