In celebration of
TONY FOXWORTHY 1932 - 2020
who brought laughter, song and dance to Whitby with Whitby Folk Week
Since his death last year, it has been felt by many that an appropriate tribute and memorial to Tony Foxworthy has been overlooked and long overdue for his contribution to the folk arts, culture and to the town of Whitby itself. Sad that it has to be posthumous but it would be appropriate to have some kind of public tribute and acknowledgement of his input to this area. This week the local council have approved permission for his family and friends to purchase a memorial seat which will be in a prominent position in Whitby. Additionally, there is planned to be a plaque in one of the early venues which was used for the original festival.
With this in mind, we are crowdfunding to assist the family and friends in the outlay of this commemorative. More importantly, we feel sure there are many who knew Tony, his work for the folk scene in the North and for the EFDSS nationally who would wish to express their appreciation and memories by being part of a celebration of this exceptional individual.
By initiating Whitby Folk Festival in the early 1960s, Tony not only produced entertainment and pleasure locally but unquestionably a significant economy to Whitby which has continued to the present day. At the time, Tony was the regional representative for the English Folk Dance and Song Society and based in the northern region; his presence created a huge network of different folk activities and he chose Whitby as base for a new National Festival. Initially a weekend event, its popularity grew until it achieved national and international prestige and the importance it has today.
There may be some who might remember Tony for his early work in the West country but many for his inspiring work for the EFDSS in the North East. Tony himself was an unassuming man, very unpretentious yet explicitly enthusiastic towards the music, dance and traditions of the British Isles. It was this passion that stimulated others and encouraged the development of clubs, concerts and of course a festival in Whitby. He then moved to London to continued work for the society as representative for song. He, more than most encouraged the ceilidh as a format combining music and dance. in 1996 he received the society’s Gold Badge. He was a regular presenter for BBC Radio Folkweave programme and additionally, he was a teacher, dance-caller, singer and collector with a number of books on folklore and traditions published. But his greatest legacy for Whitby was the annual festival.
The festival has always been unusually democratic in that not only do major folk artists share the same status on the bill as newcomers to the field but the festival embraces all age groups with workshops, talks and presentations for young and old - for ticket holders and general public alike. As well as concerts and workshops, street performance, parades, music sessions, dance performances that occur freely throughout the town, a significant charitable contribution is made from selected events and a donation to the local RNLI each year sometime exceeds all expectations. Similarly, businesses, publicans and hoteliers benefit greatly by the festival and many of these may certainly be included in the support of a significant commemorative to praise this man. Indeed, many of the original festival goers have since moved to Whitby permanently as a result of the festival.
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- Derek Schofield
- Brenda Godrich
- Karen Kaplan
- Jackie Cameron
Organizer and beneficiary
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