He was always there. A constant in my life for over half a century and for countless others far and wide. Mick Peat died on January 22nd, aged 80. He will be remembered, of that there is no doubt – but he won’t be there, he won’t be here. My daughter wrote to me after she’d heard: “What do we do now?”
Alongside Mick’s children, Garry and Maxine, and his wife Celia, the “What do we do now?” became, 'The Mick Peat Drystone Bursary - to encourage and facilitate creativity in all its forms and bring people together.' It’s already smashed its target. Bringing people together was central to his soul, it was everything Mick strove to do.
Learning the ropes at Alfreton’s Upstairs Cellar in the 60s, setting up his own club with The Ripley Wayfarers, touring professionally with the band, recording albums, learning to call for dancing at which he became renowned, bringing together Rogues Gallery and taking them into the studio, a 25 year tenure on BBC Radio Derby as the voice of folk music throughout the East Midlands and in between, his next-best love; as a time-served master-craftsman, ‘M.J.Peat Traditional Builder’ – locally known as ‘Mick the Brick’.
In recent years he turned his gnarly shovel-hands to promotion, setting up festivals and concerts and not least, bringing on new performers, as Kate Rusby, Sam Sweeney and Lucy Ward will testify. He was the first in line after the tragic Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 to form The Derbyshire Volunteers, a collective of like-minded musicians, still ongoing and playing for free to raise charitable funding.
And midst all this, establishing Derby Folk Festival and alongside Bob Rushton raising it to national status. All the while making occasional appearances as background artist on numerous TV productions - and between, entertaining and calling gentle dances for pensioners and care home residents - not that he recognised he was often older than his dancers.
He holds the Andy Potter Award For Services To Community Arts and only last year received the highest order of the English Folk Dance and Song Society – the prestigious Gold Badge.
When Coronavirus hit last year, Drystone was formed. Mick was made President, with Sir Michael Morpurgo as Patron, again someone whose work he’d promoted with War Horse, Private Peaceful and more. Drystone embodied Mick and it is Drystone who will carry his legacy forward.
Later this year The Mick Peat Drystone Bursary will be presented. It takes the form of an engraved bricklayer’s trowel. He was, after all, a builder – ‘Mick the Brick’.