A modern Renaissance Man – painter –
singer - musician on guitar, banjo and melodeon - dental mechanic
- writer of plays and songs for stage, community and puppet theatre
- folksong, dance, music and story collector- journalist -Director
of the Society for Storytelling – training workshop leader
on a vast range of subjects – performer for the British
Council, mainly in Africa - published poet - biographer –
folk music contributor to Groves Musical Dictionary - member of
the editorial board of The Folk Music Journal – editor of
a whole range of magazines on topics as diverse as folk music,
puppetry, storytelling and stage fighting – scriptwriter
for numerous radio and television series and single programmes
– bookseller – busker- pavement artist – coffee
bar manager – theatre set painter – Morris dancer
– witchcraft researcher – electronic music pioneer
– storyteller, a role that has taken him to China (twice),
the United States and Borneo – Trustee of Mythstories (the
folktale museum) – Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts….
But whether it is, writing, singing, telling stories, or whatever,
the name that will be stamped through it like a stick of seaside
rock will be Tradition.
Vic Smith - The Living Tradition
|Dave at opening of Salem Witchcraft Museum,
CITATION FOR THE GOLD BADGE
OF THE ENGLISH FOLK DANCE AND SONG SOCIETY, 2003
Dave Arthur was born in Little Sutton, Cheshire.
His pedigree perfectly fitting him for his later career of purveyor
of folk song. His maternal Grandfather was a farmer, and his paternal
Grandfather carried out the crafts of thatcher, professional sheep-shearer,
and butcher. Even his maternal Great-Grandfather, a horse-breaker,
seems to have met a folkloric end, being killed by a stallion
in the breaking yard. On being carried back into the house on
a door, there was found a hoof-print of the stallion over his
heart. Of such things are songs and singers made.
The move to London, when Dave was around six years
of age, was to prove an important milestone in his life, for it
was there that he became exposed to the growing music scene, whilst
a scholarship student at St Olave’s Grammar School, Tower
Bridge. He had already been judiciously prepared for this by his
mother who had encouraged his early interest in music and balladry.
Dave grew up listening to early 78s of folk song on a wind-up
gramophone, and reading ‘Young Lochinvar’, ‘The
Highwayman’, ‘The Fighting Temeraire’, ‘Hiawatha’,
’The Ballad of Dick Turpin’ etc., under the bedclothes
by torchlight, and making up tunes for them. Thus, when aged about
twelve, Dave started listening to trad jazz, and a couple of years
later, skiffle, as well as attending the various South London
skiffle sessions, at places like the Chislehurst Caves, his future
path was set out.
By the time Dave had reached his mid teens the folk
club scene was growing, and he was not slow to take advantage
of the opportunity to listen to the likes of Ewan MacColl, Bert
Lloyd, Shirley Collins, and many more, too numerous to name, but
all having an influence on him.
Having determined to pursue a career as a painter,
Dave made a decision which was again to prove a seminal choice
in his life. Living in a garret off Chelsea’s King’s
Road, with artist Mik Paris (later, historian, Dr Michael Paris)
seemed to be the best way to pursue a painterly career, and it
was Mik who taught Dave to play the guitar. They regularly sang
at Nigel Denver’s folk night’s at the left-wing Unity
Theatre, It was here that he first met Bob Davenport, who impressed
him by entering from the back of the auditorium, and singing ‘The
Shoals of Herring’ as he walked down the central aisle.
As with Bob Davenport, art gradually took a back seat and singing
|Dave with Doc Watson, Deep Gap, North Carolina.
Working in a late-night west-end coffee bar in the
early 60s, allowed Dave access to two of his other loves, the
London bookshops (he became a voracious reader, and academic bookseller),
and the theatre (in which he was later to work as playwright and
performer) where he avidly devoured every new production and was
even known to paint a bit of scenery on occasion. The coffee bar
became the focus for musicians, who would drop in after gigs,
and it was here that he met his future wife, Toni, then a nurse
at University College Hospital, who would also drop in, after
late night shifts. When Dave discovered that, before becoming
a nurse, Toni had won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music,
and from an early age had had tuition at the Academy in voice
and piano, it must have seemed a natural lead into playing and
singing together. Toni finished her nursing course, and instead
of taking up a place at London University to read psychology,
they got married and moved up to Oxford to run a university bookshop,
and whilst there started to sing together in the local folk clubs.
It is no accident that the small number
of albums which Dave and Toni recorded together are now among
the most sought after folk recording. Their rarity is due in no
small part to the quality of the performances, and the fact that
the performers themselves set a standard in scholarship and research
which has rarely been equalled by other folk duos. Their stage
performances were unusual, too, I cannot recall any other duo
in the early revival who could not only sing wonderfully and play
instrumental music, but could also dance, and talk with authority
on the whole spectrum of folk song, dance and custom. This wide
reaching approach to folk music also acted as a qualification.
|Dave with Tennessee banjo virtuoso, Will
During the late 60s/70s Dave was invited by Dr Russell
Wortley, the editor of the Folk Music Journal, to join the editorial
board. He was, at that time, the youngest board member by many
years, and the only representative of the young singers.
For nearly a quarter of a century Dave was editor of English Dance
and Song. His early output of that magazine was a complete change
from what had gone before. Those volumes were the first to use
artistic standards of design and although they look very ‘seventies’
now, at the time they were screaming modern publications, reflecting
Dave’s forward looking views on the business of folk music
and dance. During this period he was not idle as a performer either,
and wrote, performed, and produced and huge range of work for
the radio, television and theatre. Dave is a natural and effective
storyteller, and these commissions were a welcome challenge which
further developed this aspect of his skills.
From the 60s to the 21st century, Dave Arthur’s
service to the folk scene is quite literally as broad as it is
long. Dancer, musician, storyteller, singer, journalist, researcher
and apologist for the movement, Dave Arthur, renaissance man,
has played no little part in the renaissance of England’s
extensive folk culture. That he continues to do so is testament
to his energy and dedication, but it is also the measure of his
love for the songs, stories and music to which he had dedicated
his extraordinary life. I commend him to you for the Society’s
highest award, the Gold Badge.
|John Harrison, Toni & Dave Arthur,
DAVID ARTHUR F.R.S.A.
Born, Cheshire. Educated, St Olaves Grammar School, London.
Trained originally as an academic bookseller in London and Oxford.
Left bookselling to become freelance writer, researcher, broadcaster,
theatre performer, folklorist and musician.
WORK HAS INCLUDED
1960s-70s albums for Topic Records, Leader Records, Decca, Transatlantic
1960s-70s Editorial Board Member of Folk Music
1978-2000 Editor of English Dance and Song
1970s-80s With his ex-wife, Toni, David toured the
world (Africa, Russia, America, Europe, Central America, Canada)
with own theatrical folklore productions involving song, dance,
mask, traditional drama, storytelling, and instrumental music
1980s albums for BBC, Thames TV, ILEA, Just William
1980s Toured West and East Africa several times
performing and lecturing on the Performing Arts for the British
1980-95 scriptwriter and presenter for Thames Television,
BSkyB TV, BBC TV and Radio on subjects as diverse as folktales,
war-correspondents, and African travel.
Also children’s and schools programmes (Playaway,
Playschool, Seeing and Doing, Watch,
1983-88 Theatre writing (with David Wood and Toni
Arthur) produced at the Nottingham Playhouse, the Young Vic, Greenwich
Theatre (Robin Hood, 1983 -), the Manchester Library
Theatre, Trinity Theatre Tunbridge Wells (Jack the Lad,
1984 -), Theatre Royal Plymouth (The Pied Piper , 1988),
as well as countless performances of the children’s play
Marion and the Witches Curse (1985).
1987 Diploma Course in Arts Marketing at City University
1988 Marketing Manager, Secombe Centre, Sutton (1988-9).
1988 –1991 writer in residence at Birmingham’s
Cannon Hill Puppet Theatre
(stage adaptations of Just So Stories, the Ramayana,
the Mabinogion and Pinnochio)
1989-95 Co-wrote BSkyB TV’s daily children’s
puppet programme, The DJ Kat Show.
1990 An oral biography A Sussex Life –
Memories of Gilbert Sargent, Countryman, published by Barrie
and Jenkins ( paperback reprint 1997).
1992 Appointed Writing Consultant for British Unima
(Union International de la Marionette)
1996 Member of Board of Directors of Upstream Theatre
1996 album of Anglo-American music Chickens
are a Crowing (Fellside Records)
1998-2001 Editor, Storylines
1998 –2001 Reminiscence worker for Artability
1998-2001 Co-Director The Society For Storytelling
1999 With Tim Arthur, musical play Bold Nelson’s
Praise (Trinity Theatre, T. Wells)
2000 Editor, Animations
2002 Musical Director for Sheppey Community play
The Floating Republic
2002 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
2002 –2003 Three storytelling tours of Hong
2003 album of Anglo-American songs and ballads Return
Journey (Wildgoose Records)
2003 Awarded Gold Badge of the English Folk Dance
and Song Society
Articles, and music and theatre reviews have appeared
in numerous newspapers, magazines, academic journals, and books,
including: The Times, The Independent, Surrey Life, Melody Maker,
Words International, The Folk Music Journal, English Dance and
Song, The Stage, Encyclopaedia Britannica, New Grove Dictionary
of Music and Musicians.
Member of the Society of Archer Antiquaries, British
Actors Equity, Musicians Union, Society of Sussex Authors
Interests include: popular culture and the traditional
arts, theatre, opera, ballet, painting, Ancient history and legend,
folktales, the literature and politics of the 1930s and 40s, archery,
puppetry, and the history of the banjo.
Skills include: driving, horse riding, swimming,
Long-Bow archery, ice-skating, fencing.
traditional dances, puppetry.
Instruments played: banjo, guitar, melodeon, dulcimer,
musical saw, whistles, also percussion (bones, spoons, tambourine,
Advisor/performer of traditional and historical
music for TV, radio, theatre, and film.
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