Miles Wootton obituary

Other lives: Gifted folk singer who lived and taught in Brighton, East Sussex

My friend Miles Wootton, who has died aged 84, was a gifted singer-songwriter who wrote, sang and recorded many songs during the 1970s and 80s that are still popular in British folk clubs.

A fine guitarist and a wry observer of life, he blended music hall and folk song in a distinctive way: Ewan MacColl said he “had the common touch” and Peggy Seeger calls him one of her “favourites of the ironic, sarcastic, humorous writers of iconic folk songs”.

Although Miles wrote serious songs and poems, he is best known for comic songs such as The Jogger’s Song (the B-side of Fred Wedlock’s hit single The Oldest Swinger in Town), The Gnome, and Early One Evening. He performed in folk clubs throughout the southern counties, from the Troubadour in London to the Count House in Cornwall, recording two LPs, Sunday Supplement World (1975) and The Great Fish Finger Disaster (1980), and one CD, The Least Worst of Miles Wootton (2007).

A number of his songs entered the folk tradition: some were recorded by his friend Allan Taylor, others by singers such as Françoise Hardy, Cyril Tawney and Martin Carthy. He wrote and performed for BBC Radio Brighton (later BBC Radio Sussex), contributed to BBC Radio 4’s satirical programme Week Ending, and had occasional articles published in the Guardian.

The eldest son of Stanley Wootton, a viola player in BBC orchestras, and his wife, Ruth (nee Anderson), a former Tiller girl, Miles was born in Manchester and attended Worthing high school in West Sussex. In 1953 he won a scholarship to Jesus College, Oxford, where he studied modern languages. A founder member of the Heritage Society, Oxford University’s folk club, he also studied guitar in London with Len Williams, father of the famous guitarist John Williams.

After university he taught modern languages at Latymer Upper school in Hammersmith, west London. In London he met Valerie Perry, an architect. They married in 1965 and moved to Brighton, where Miles lived, taught (at Brighton and Hove grammar and Varndean high school), wrote and sang for the rest of his life. He retired from teaching in 1989 and loved watching the birds in his wildlife garden.

Valerie died in 1982. Miles is survived by their daughters, Kate and Poppy, and grandson, Enzo.

John Pole

The GuardianTramp

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