Natural swimmer against the stream


Roy Shaw, arts administrator and writer

Born July 8, 1918, died  May 15, 2012

Sir Roy Shaw, who has died aged 93, was Secretary-General of the Arts Council of Great Britain between 1975 and 1983. For a quarter of a century before that, he worked in adult education at the universities of Leeds and Keele.

He brought to the Council a commitment to education in and popularisation of the arts informed by his adult education work. Converted to Catholicism in 1955, he was for more than a decade an influential Catholic layman, before leaving the Church at the end of the 1960s, only to return in the 1980s before leaving once more in his final decade and ultimately declaring himself agnostic.

After his retirement, from 1989 to 1999 he was drama critic of The Tablet, and still reviewed two or three plays a week at the age of 80.

Roy Shaw was born in Sheffield to working-class parents and experienced serious hardship as a child. His steelworker father was taken ill and was no longer part of Roy's life from the age of 4; he died when Roy was 11.

His mother then worked for a while in a children's home looking after other children, while Roy lived with his grandparents in the mining village of Shirebrook, Derbyshire. His grandfather, who would sing popular songs on his return from the pit, inspired a love of the best in popular entertainment that would endure.

Back in Sheffield, however, Roy was stimulated by his teachers at Firth Park Grammar School to a life-long love of literature and the arts. His mother, although now remarried, could barely support his studies, and after school Roy went to work in Sheffield City Library and then at the Sheffield Telegraph newspaper.

Unable to work because of the Crohn's disease that would afflict him for almost eight decades, in 1941 Roy went to recuperate at the Quaker Woodbrooke College in Birmingham, and from there gained the opportunity to go to Manchester University where he graduated in German and Philosophy in 1946.

Full obituary in The Tablet:

Obituary in The Guardian:

More on Sir Roy Shaw:

Roy Shaw according to Wikipedia:

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