The following post is from Michael Freeman, Chairman of The Blues Foundation
Dear Blues Friends,
This past weekend, as I presided over the quarterly meeting of the Blues Foundation Board of Directors, one of our key agenda items was The International Blues Challenge. I am writing to share with our blues community that our Board voted unanimously to cancel this years’ IBC and look ahead to the first quarter of 2022 when we can hopefully come together in person to celebrate the blues via this signature Blues Foundation event.
Leading up to this Board decision, we wrote expanded rules that would have allowed our affiliated blues societies to choose their challengers outside of a live judged event. In response, many have reported back to us that they and the musicians in their communities are not enthusiastic about proceeding. It has become clear to us that without full engagement of artists, industry, blues society leadership, and fans, we could not produce an event with the musical diversity and quality you have come to expect. After much discussion and careful consideration of all options, including a virtual IBC, we universally agreed that this special and unique Blues Foundation program is meant to be experienced live and that it would not be safe or feasible to attempt to produce it this winter in the midst of a pandemic. The Board concurrently voted to suspend nominations and selection of Keeping the Blues Alive Award recipients until the fall of 2021, with plans to honor those selected during the 2022 IBC Week, where they can be celebrated in person with their family and friends surrounding them.
We recognize that the International Blues Challenge has grown in scope and recognition throughout the world, and we do not want to leave a vacuum in its absence this year. Please be assured that we will be using the time and resources normally directed towards the IBC to develop unique content and virtual activities for this winter. This is not intended to replace the IBC, but to give the blues world and our membership a way to remain connected as we all continue to heal through this pandemic that has uprooted so many of our plans and our lives.
While we will miss coming together on Beale Street this January, we choose to see this as an opportunity to expand our mission in new ways. We are hopeful that open travel, live music, and the ability to congregate in-person will quickly be safe again, and I encourage you to save the dates for the 37th International Blues Challenge – February 1st through February 5th, 2022.
Please stay safe and be well.