Professor Roy Bailey, MBE (returned) who died last year, was the patron of Music on the Marr for 8 years. He had a distinguished career as an academic sociologist by day; at the weekends and in the evenings Roy was a man of the people, singer of songs of compassion, resistance, revolution and hope. For 55 years his strong voice filled sold out gigs in small folk clubs, marquees at festivals, the Albert Hall and across the world. Often thought to have been a great songwriter, he was the first to admit that he had never written a song in his life. Instead he interpreted songs written by others making them his own and he has been described as one of the greatest interpreters of contemporary and traditional songs.
In this unique show we bring together some of those musicians who worked with Roy and some of the songwriters whose songs he sang. Many of them appeared with Roy in The Anti Capitalist Road Show: Celebrating Subversion, and other collaborations. All of them have an important place in the canon of folk music in these islands and have been most influential in its development during the last 50 years.
Contributions from: Leon Rosselson, Frankie Armstrong, Ray Hearne, Jim Woodland, Janet Russell, Sandra Kerr, Andy Cutting, Nancy Kerr, James Fagan, Marc Block, Stew Simpson and Martin Simpson.
Ray Hearne's family came from rural Kilkenny, in the early 1950s and landed in Industrial Rotherham; steel plants and mills on every side. He became a Yorkshire Irish kid and later began to write songs, poems and stories out of that smoky beginning some of it in response to the Thatcher governments trashing of South Yorkshire. He was born into a musical family regularly singing with his brother Mark and listening to Mario Lanza, McCormacks, Clancy Brothers, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Dylan and Cohen came later. In his late teens He discovered folk clubs and poetry; Martin Carthy, the Watersons, WB Yeats, Christy Moore, Ralph McTell, Dick Gaughan, the Chieftains, Seamus Heaney, and later on Roy Bailey. His ‘Song for David’ was amongst the most requested in Roy’s repertoire.
Frankie Armstrong is a Cumbrian and an acclaimed singer and voice teacher. She has worked as a singer in the folk scene and the women's movement and as a trainer in social and youth work. She is a key mover of the natural voice and community choirs movements and is the president of The Natural Voice Network. She has been a voice coach for theatrical groups, including at the National Theatre for 18 years. She was involved with folk and political songs from the 1950s and in a trio with Roy and Leon Rosselson for 8 years in the 80s, they toured N America and Europe as
well as doing many concerts for CND and other causes in the UK. Frankie was given the prestigious Gold Badge Award by The English Folk Dance and Song Society last year.
Jim Woodland. Songwriter, performer and producer. As a film, media and communication studies graduate Jim worked for both the BBC and the Inner London Education Authority. He has been a street theatre and cabaret performer, playwright and creator shows for theatre companies and sketches for comedians. He now leads on community work with Blaze specialising in video, audio, music and drama workshops and performance bringing high quality productions to village halls .He is a talented and inspiring songwriter; Roy Bailey was an exponent of his songs.
Janet Russell. Singer, vocal harmony workshop leader, musical director, arranger and choir leader. Janet first made a name for herself in the ‘80’s as a young singer songwriter writing with hard-edged humour about issues affecting women. Her “Secretary’s Song” became a BBC Radio 2 legend and “Breastfeeding Baby in the Park” has been taken up by the pro-breastfeeding lobby. Janet has worked with many musicians including Roy Bailey and toured the show “Take These Chains from My Heart”, written by partner Jim Woodland. Her work on Scottish traditional materiel has received huge critical acclaim. She is a member of the Natural Voice Practitioners’ Network and a director of Yorkshire Dales Workshops.
Leon Rosselson. One of our greatest singer songwriters and a committed fighter for truth and justice. In the early days of the folk revival, he was a member of the Galliards with whom he made numerous radio and TV broadcasts and concert appearances. He started writing songs seriously (and humorously) in the early 1960s. His early songs were topical-satirical and featured on TV's satire show That Was The Week That Was. His influences include Music Hall and French Realist Song. He experiments with different song forms and had the honour of having one of his recordings, the 1962, ‘Songs for City Squares’ censored by the BBC. Never short of political acuity, he collaborated with Roy Bailey in many projects over 35 years and he continues to perform and write.
Sandra Kerr is an English folk singer, multi instrumentalist, song-writer and choir director. She has a distinguished career in music and was a member of The Critics Group with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. She has been a part of Sisters Unlimited, Voice Union and the Anti Capitalist Roadshow. With John Faulkner, she wrote the music for the TV series Bagpuss and voiced the character of Madeleine Remnant. Sandra was on the staff of Newcastle University's degree in Folk & Traditional Music for 17 years until 2017.
Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, twice winners “Best Duo” at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, are one of the best-known and most experienced folk duos on the British circuit today. Outstanding musicianship, a lifelong grounding in traditional singing and instrumental playing, acclaimed original compositions but most noticeably a visceral chemistry between these two make Kerr and Fagan a perennial favourite at festivals, venues and clubs across the country. They met in December 1995, and formed the duo and life partnership that has become the backbone of their professional career in music ever since. They won the inaugural Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2000, and were also the first ever recipients of the “Best Duo” Award, which they won in 2003, and again in 2011. They are one of only two acts ever to receive this honour twice (along with Spiers and Boden).
Andy Cutting is an English folk musician and composer famous for his melodeon playing and for writing and performing traditional English folk. His own compositions combine English and French traditions with wider influences. He is three times winner of the Folk Musician of the Year award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and has appeared on more than 50 albums, both as a solo artist and in collaboration with other musicians; he regularly accompanied Roy Bailey at festivals and concerts including Towersy Village festival where Roy was also patron. He is an essential part of highly regarded Leveret and Anglo-French band, Topette.
Martin Simpson. Unquestionably one of the world’s greatest guitarists and songwriters. His music reflects a wide variety of influences and styles, rooted in Britain, Ireland, America and beyond. As well as dozens of collaborations he he has appeared on 21 solo albums and been nominated for A BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 23 times in 11 years and awarded Musician of the Year Twice. He was Roy’s son in law and regularly accompanied him at performances at home in Sheffield and throughout the country, most notably at Roy’s annual August Bank Holiday afternoon gig at Towersy Festival where he was patron for 50 years.
Stew Simpson Roy had been Stew’s favourite voice in the folk world for some time before they met at Cecil Sharp House, the home of The English Folk Dance and Song Society where they were both playing. After an ageist slight by the organiser Stew found himself enraged at the injustice of ageism and he challenged it. Being brave in front of an audience gained him a friend, a mentor and eventually led to Roy becoming the Patron at Music On The Marr. “He showed me that if you aren't brave and don't stand up for what you believe to be the truth and what is right then the truly magical things in life might not happen”. He showed me that love can make 'Everything Possible!'
Marc Block is curating The LYLB Collective. Marc was Roy's friend for over thirty years, and his driver and accompanist during the last six years of Roy's life. He has also been part of Music on the Marr for that time, appearing with his Trio, as a Wandering Minstrel, doing special concerts such as his "European Tour", and often dancing wildly down the front. A fine singer and songwriter, Marc is a highly engaging and personable performer, disarming and wooing his audiences with his emotional honesty, and combining tradition and innovation with a magickal and queer slant to his writing. His third album is in the making, featuring guest appearances by several of those in this collective.