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Shock after deaths of folk scene favourites Bob Drage and Kathy Drage

By Aidan Barlow

Friends of two folk scene stalwarts have expressed their shock after a broken-hearted wife died just a week after her husband.

Bob Drage died at the Pilgrims Hospice in Ashford on Sunday, December 10 after losing his battle with cancer, and his wife and partner since their teenage years, Kathy, died at home a week later.

The duo were prominent members in the Tenterden Folk Festival, and friends say they believe Kathy died of a broken heart.

Kathy and Bob were dedicated to Kent's folk scene. Picture courtesy of Tenterden Folk Festival

Kathy and Bob were dedicated to Kent's folk scene. Picture courtesy of Tenterden Folk Festival

Tenterden Folk Festival director Alan Castle BEM said: “Bob was 67 in August and had been ill with cancer for a couple of years. We are all shocked to hear that Kathy has also died alone at home.

“Bob and Kathy had been together since they were teenagers and had seldom, if ever, been apart. We think Kathy died of a broken heart.”

Meanwhile pal Doug Hudson from the Rochester Sweeps Festival said the Drages had kept the “flame of folk music alive” by organising events across Kent.

Mr Hudson said: “Bob and Kathy were the epitome of this. Over some 40 years they organised and ran small folk clubs all over the county, often self-financed, frequently sparsely attended, but always with an optimism and dedication to folk music.

Kathy and Bob playing on the Folk Train in 2006. Picture by Barry Duffield

Kathy and Bob playing on the Folk Train in 2006. Picture by Barry Duffield

“They ran singaround sessions for me at Rochester Sweeps Festival and were proud when they could tell me when they had no empty seats because so many people wanted to sing.”

When they decided to wind down their role at Rochester, they took up the baton at the Tenterden Folk Festival, becoming an important part of the set up.

Mr Hudson said: “Bob and Kathy were old fashioned in that they would talk to you on the phone, not by email or Facebook. You would always get a Christmas card and birthday card.

The duo enjoying the Tenterden Folk Festival. Picture by Chris Davey

The duo enjoying the Tenterden Folk Festival. Picture by Chris Davey

“They had no family between them, and in some senses only had each other to depend on. But they did have a family, a family of so many friends on the folk scene. Singers, musicians, poets and ordinary audience members.

“That is the family that is mourning their untimely loss.”

Bob and Kathy moved to Westgate in Thanet in the 1970s and ran folk clubs in Broadstairs, Sandwich and in Medway. At one stage they ran four clubs at the same time.

They also organised popular singalong events at various folk music events across the county.

The Tenterden Folk Festival is a popular event. Picture by Paul Amos

The Tenterden Folk Festival is a popular event. Picture by Paul Amos

Together they were committee members of the Tenterden Folk Festival for 20 years, completing plenty of the important back office administration needed to host a fantastic annual event.

Then 14 years ago they also took on the work of producing the Around Kent Folk magazine to keep the scene up to date with news, reviews, and event dates. 

Mr Hudson added: "The folk scene in Kent, and the Tenterden Folk Festival in particular, will not be the same without them.”

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