FINGER-PICKING guitarist Darren Hodge has beaten 1,800 entrants to the BBC2 Young Folk Awards’ semi-final – one of just ten to make the grade.

The first stage win tops off a packed summer on the festival circuit for the self-taught 17-year-old South West Music School and Bridgwater College student, who lives in Taunton.

Highlights of his summer include supporting internationally celebrated Irish folk artist Cara Dillon and playing Watchet Live Music Festival.

“I’m very proud, very happy that I’ve been chosen – it’s a shock,” said Darren.

“In Kendal I’ll get to play three tracks – two of my own and one cover – in ten minutes.

"I’m more looking forward to it than nervous because I really wasn’t expecting it. I’m really excited about it. I’ve got to do the best I can.”

Darren’s supporters, who include former Acoustic Magazine editor Mark Tucker, have said he could be as important to folk music as Django Reindhart was to gypsy jazz.

The BBC’s annual awards seek outstanding young musicians aged 16 to 21 who perform folk, roots or acoustic music from any culture.

Proud dad Douglas Hodge bought Darren his first guitar when he was just 12.

He said: “They’ve no-one like Dar-ren. He’s unique, especially given his age. Of course there are kids up and down the country who can play but he’s got something.

"If all goes well it’s going to be life-changing so it’s a very special event.”

The Young Folk Award Weekend in Kendal, Cumbria, runs over October 18-20, culminating with a public concert presented by BBC Radio 6 Music’s Mark Radcliffe, where a panel of judges will shortlist four finalists.

Prizes for the winner include the chance to perform live in session for the Radio 2 Folk Show.