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Primary Education News
News Nigel West obituary
My friend Nigel West, who has died suddenly aged 60 on holiday in India, was well-known in South Yorkshire's folk music circle. He also worked tirelessly for the underprivileged.
His family were Sheffield cutlers, but he had no interest in joining that business. I met Nigel at primary school in Sheffield and we both went to the city's King Edward VII school and then Oxford University. At Oxford University in the early 1970s, alienated by the sense of entitlement exuded by some of the academic staff in PPE, he gathered together a group of radically minded friends from whom he said he learned more than from anyone who taught him formally.
Organising political, social and musical events, he became known as the Chief, a name that stuck among his Oxford friends for the rest of his life. It had elements of both irony and humour; Nigel never aimed to attract attention, but rather had a shrewd appreciation of who might work with whom and to what productive end.
He acquired a teaching diploma, but it was the voluntary sector that gave him the opportunity to act on his lifelong socialist ideals. He wrote innovative schools packs for Oxfam and took up education work in Tanzania before returning to Britain and jobs with Barnardo's, Voluntary Action Sheffield, Sheffield Wildlife Trust and Sheffield Wellbeing Consortium, where he co-ordinated a network of community health champions.
Music always played a large part in Nigel's life; he admired the humour and social commentary of South Yorkshire folk musicians such as Tony Capstick, and continued the tradition in his own bands, which included Zed Deans and his Apparatus (Deans was a mathematician who devised a rig for teaching weights and measures to children) and Dead Shreddie and the Cereal Killers. He wrote funny songs with socio-political themes such as Attila the Hun, The Defenestration of Prague and Costa Barrista.
Latterly, Nigel moved with his partner and fellow folk musician, Cein Edwards, to a smallholding with the intention of becoming self-sufficient, acquiring a menagerie of dogs, cats, chickens and ducks, a kitchen garden and orchard. There they realised a long-held dream: Chickenstock, a mini folk festival held in the spring of 2011 and 2012 and to be repeated this year in Nigel's memory. A gentle and much-loved man, he lived a principled life.
He is survived by Cein; two sons, Paul and Stephen, from his marriage to Sheila, from whom he was divorced; and his grandson, Oisin.