John Clare and the Folk Tradition

George Deacon was born in Oxford but moved to Swindon with his family aged 13. Having had no formal musical education he was fortunate to meet local music teacher and guitar shop owner Dorothy Sprittles. Dorothy held informal guitar lessons above her shop late on every Thursday evening (occasionally running though the night). George joined this group and discovered a love of folk song and of performing.


Dorothy organised an annual concert for her pupils and it was at one of these that George gave his first performance. He was also a regular at Swindon Folk Singers Club and there the organiser one Friday evening persuaded George to perform. The seeds were sown and as his repertoire and experience grew he decided to to become a folk singer. So, in 1964, aged 21 he moved to St Ives, Cornwall, and became one of the resident singers at the Fish Street Gallery Folk Club. Performing three nights each week gave him the opportunity to practice his performance skills. Some time later he moved to London where, although not a student, he became the organiser of the North London Polytechnic Folk Club.


Needing to get himself known George travelled the country doing "floor spots" at folk clubs, often acting as driver for well known acts. One of the singers for whom he drove was John Pearse, guitarist, singer and presenter of several television series on folk music and guitar technique. It was through John that he got his first television work as one of a group receiving singing lessons from Florence Weise Norberg in Give Us a Song , a 10 week series on BBC 1 and BBC 2. George decided that the time had come to give up the day job and become a full-time singer.


In 1968 George acquired a 19th-century folding portable harmonium and soon after was joined by Marion Ross as keyboard player. Together they appeared at Clubs and Festivals around the UK and on radio and TV. Footage of George and Marion appearing at Cambridge Folk Festival singing The Bold Poachers can be found by clicking here. George and Marion signed to Transatlantic Records and released an album Sweet William's Ghost on XTRA1130. A track from the album is included on two double CDs The Best of English Folk Music and Anthems in Eden.


Having moved to Woodford, a small village, in Northamptonshire, George had begun to research the folk traditions of his adopted county. It was this research that led to him discovering the Clare Manuscripts in Northampton Library and ultimately to writing John Clare and The Folk Tradition.


In 1980 George married Isobel and together they recorded the CD Dream Not of Love with Christine Hodgkinson. The CD features George and Isobel's settings of 17 songs from the Clare manuscripts. Whilst completing a PhD on Popular Song and Social History, George began writing for Radio. His first programme Helpston Cracked Pippins , a look at Clare's, and modern villager's, recollections of Christmas in Helpston, was broadcast on Christmas Day 1983. Other programmes followed including 6 programmes as part of BBC Radio's Time for Verse series and the music for Neil Philip's Trilogy Between Earth and Sky. This led to George and Isobel being commissioned to provide the period music for Comrades , Bill Douglass's account of the Tolpuddle Martyrs (now available as a DVD).


In 1984, after 20 years as a singer and writer, George returned to his earlier career as an Accountant.