You can also Search

Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

Twitter Facebook Instagram
Subscribe Pinterest Flickr
My other social media.

Search the Filk FAQ
Current Projects




I'm Bored Bonus Page
« How do I record a CD on a small budget? | Main | What are the Pegasus Awards? »

What are 'The Sams'/UK Filk Awards?

(Thanks to Lissa and Phil Allcock for the following info!)

The concept of UK filk awards dates back to the second UK filkcon, Con2bile, in 1990 where the committee for that Con decided some awards might be a fun thing to try. However, given the UK con is run by a different committee each year, the idea was not then pursued by successive committees, at least until Vibraphone in 1994 when another set were given out, this time for songs in the 4 years since Con2bile. Then followed another 4 year hiatus until the Decadence committee followed suit, again for songs in the 4 years since the last award set were given.

At this point, however, in stepped Philip and Lissa Allcock who were part of the committee to run Didgeridouze (filkcon 12). They went to the XIlophone (11) committee and offered to run awards there, having the cunning plan that if there were awards at cons 10, 11 *and* 12 that this would then hopefully create enough momentum for things to keep rolling on a regular basis thereafter. Also, since there was now something of a precedent for "in the last 4 years", Phil suggested making this a rolling 4 year window thus providing what seemed an ideal (if serendipitous) compromise between keeping the awards reasonably "current" and allowing time for songs to spread through the community. And the cunning plan worked, and Sams have been awarded (on that 4 year rolling window) at each UK convention since then.


The awards given are Best Serious and Best Silly (both of which have a 4 year time limit, in that they must have been written (or first performed in some rare circumstances) within the 4 years previous to the filk con at which they are awarded) Filk Gold (defined as best song that is older than 4 years and that has not previously won a UK award) At Con - the award for the best performance at the convention (where it should be noted that this award is for the performer(s) not necessarily the songwriter. It should also be noted that it is a performance award rather than an award for the song per se, and this subtle distinction can be seen by looking at what it has been awarded to).

The awards are "UK filk awards" in that they are voted by the attending members of the main/annual UK filk convention and (because obviously the performances are fresh in mind) usually for songs performed at that convention. However, as a glance at the history will show, they are definitely not necessarily limited to UK recipients!

The Prizes:

Before they became "The Sams", the awards had given out either certificates or ornaments (bought or crafted) as prizes. Lissa however had the idea of getting some artist's figurines and giving out gold statuettes as per the Oscars. At which Phil, as is his wont, jokingly said "We could add a beard and call them the Sams" [taking after the bearded Soren Nyrond, the "Sam" of "Sam's Song"]. And so of course, they did, and "The Sams" have been awarded at every annual UK filkcon since, initially made and adminstered by Lissa and Phil, then latterly by Omega and Melusine.

The original idea was that the Sam figures would, like the Oscars, be essentially the same from year to year. However since Didgeridouze had a running joke involving cows, the award figurines for that con were "cow" painted, black spots on white. And as is so often the case in filk, twice maketh a tradition and ever since then the awards have been specifically tailored in some way to the name, artwork theme or running joke of each convention.

Conthirteena had a "2001" theme so the figurines were painted gunmetal to look like the monolith. Contabile-Fortean had a "little green men" alien theme so half size figurines were used, given antennae and painted green. Quinze was the first year where Omega took over the responsibility for making the awards and the level of imagination going into their construction shot up.

"The Quinze Filk Festival" had a movie theme and the figurines were gold again to embrace their Oscar origins but standing under golden palm trees. 16-Tones was in part a joke on Rhodri James's filk "16 Tomes", and so the figurines were sitting on a pile of 15 books, each with the name of a convention on the spine and with the details of which award had been won and by who written onto the front page of the 16th book held in the figurine's hands. For Dixseption the figures were painted to look like Nuns (for reasons which escape me - you'll need to ask Omega) carrying guitars, and the award details were written on the back of the guitars. 1812Tone was the "American" UK con, run by Americans (and those with a tenuous claim to American blood) so the figurines were painted to look like Uncle Sam, their top hats having a lift away section with the award details were written underneath. D'Zenove Convention had a Men in Black theme so the figurines were dressed in black outfits with sunglasses and hats, and the same clever lift away section on the hats again for the award details.

Ceremony and Administration:

Initially, the awards were reasonably low-key, being handed out at the closing ceremony. However, over the years it has become more glamorous because Melusine felt that Lissa was not applying sufficient pomp and circumstance. She does it "properly" with little gold envelopes with the lists of nominees and reading out the top 3 in reverse order - and she dresses up to the nines to do it too. It has also now become the tradition for the awards to be slightly earlier in the afternoon to enable them to be followed by a mini-concert in which the winners get to perform their songs once again.

Rumour in UK fandom still has it that these are run by Phil & Lissa Allcock. However, having subcontracted out the making of the awards the management of the voting and the running of the awards ceremony this is now largely untrue! What they do provide is the whiteboard for writing nominations onto, the pen to write with, standing up and promoting nominations at the start of the con and any sundry announcements that need to be made (such as not to use any pen other than the one provided because that a proper whiteboard pen) if they get asked to and paying for the awards out of excess funds generated by previous UK filk Conventions (now held in the UK Filk Management Fund).

You can find out more information about the UK filk awards at

Reader Comments (2)

What are the Sams?

Small objects of desire. =:o}

April 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPaul_B

The nuns were a nod to the 'penguins' theme that ran through Dixseption with a nod to the Blues Brothers, I believe.

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Maughan
Editor Permission Required
You must have editing permission for this entry in order to post comments.