Whitby Folk Week: memorial bench unveiled for man who started the festival in the 1960s

Despite Folk Week not being live again in Whitby this year, a large gathering of musicians, singers, dancers and friends came together to unveil a memorial seat in Whitby to the man who originally started the festival in the 1960s - Tony Foxworthy.

By Duncan Atkins
Monday, 6th September 2021, 10:38 am

The unveiling was attended by Tony’s widow Betty and daughter Morwenna along with family members and close friends, Jill Pidd and Doc Rowe, who had organised the event.

Tony died last year and it was felt that an appropriate tribute and memorial to him was long overdue - not just for his contribution to the town of Whitby itself but to the folk arts and culture nationally.

Doc Rowe said: "Tony was an unassuming man yet explicitly enthusiastic towards the music, dance and traditions of the British Isles.

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Pictured at Tony Foxworthy's memorial bench in Whitby are, from left to right: Jill Pidd, Morwenna Foxworthy, Betty Foxworthy and Doc Rowe.

"It was this passion and his presence as a regional rep for the English Folk Dance and Song Society in the North of England in the early sixties that stimulated others to create a huge network of different folk activities and he chose Whitby as the base for a new National Festival."

A regular presenter for BBC Radio Folkweave programme, he was also a teacher, dance-caller, singer and collector with a number of books on folklore and traditions published.

His greatest legacy for Whitby, however was the annual festival in a town he loved.

"By initiating Whitby Folk Festival, Tony not only produced entertainment and pleasure locally but unquestionably a significant economy to Whitby which has continued to the present day.

Tony Foxworthy's memorial bench in Whitby.

"Initially a weekend event, its popularity grew until it achieved national and international prestige and the importance it has today."

Whitby Mission and Seafarers' Centre was a venue used for the original festival and a beautiful celebratory plaque has also been designed for permanent display at the building, specially made locally by Croft Cast Signs.