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Roy Bailey - 1935-2018

Roy Bailey, who died on 20 November 2018, was widely known as a fine radical folk singer. Throughout his singing life, he had moved from skiffle to traditional English music, and on to songs of commitment to a whole variety of humanitarian causes. He was blessed with a wonderful baritone voice and a sharp wit which endeared him to audiences at folk song clubs and major folk festivals world-wide. His greatest skill was to turn wherever he was performing into an intimate venue where you were close to him, no matter how far away the centre of the stage happened to be.

Roy was born to a single mother in Bow and moved to Southend-on-Sea due to bombs being dropped on London. In order to make a life for the two of them, she found a family who were willing to take her as a live-in servant even though she had a child. She later married an East End bookmaker known as ‘Manchester Ted’, who it is reported led a blameless life once he had family responsibilities. After O and A levels at a local technology college, Roy went on to a distinguished career in the world of academia.

His academic profession was as a sociologist. He did a degree at Leicester University, became a lecturer at Enfield College of Technology, and eventually became a professor at Sheffield Hallam University in 1989. His most important publication was with Mike Brake - Radical Social Work (1975). It urged social workers to set their work in the social and economic context of the world around them. Roy described his role as an academic as important to his singing – for the income it gave him meant there was no commercial pressures on his performances.

He won a BBC Folk Award in 2003 for his collaboration over a couple of decades with Tony Benn. Based on Benn's book about the working class’ resistance to exploitation and taking as its title, The Writing On The Wall, Roy sang appropriate radical songs whilst Tony read from his book.

Roy made three recordings of children's songs, the first, Oats And Beans And Kangaroos (Fontana,1965) included one of his best known songs, Leon Rosselson's You Need Skin, and locally to his home in Sheffield he appeared for children's organisations like the Woodcraft Folk. He gave his final public performance in Sheffield last October.

Roy and his wife Val married in 1963 and they have a son, David, and a daughter, Kit. He also has three grandchildren. His half-brother Ron survives him.

Roy Bailey, folk singer and academic, born 20 October 1935; died 20 November 2018. Gracias A La Vida!

Dave Eyre