Keith Savage – an appreciation

Socialist arts champion

Many Chartist readers will be sad to hear of the sudden death of long-time supporter Keith Savage. Keith was a great friend whom I first met when he was an undergraduate at Kingston Polytechnic in the mid-1970s. Bernard Misrahi, a Chartist founder and fellow student, had organised a LPYS meeting at which I was speaking. Shortly after that Keith agreed to join the Editorial Board and remained a member until his move to Derbyshire in the early 1990s. In 1980, he became our first proper books editor. Keith was a gentle, quietly spoken but steadfast socialist and internationalist. He also joined the EB of our sister journal, Ireland Socialist Review, promoting self-determination for the Irish people.

Keith’s real passion was music and culture. One of his many Chartist articles was a brilliant analysis of socialism and popular music while another standout piece was an interview with the Flying Lizards following their hit single ‘Money’. This was to inspire a cultural column, ‘Party Pieces’, which he wrote or commissioned pieces for on different aspects of popular culture. He broadened our book coverage, again with a particular emphasis on personal, sexual and cultural politics.

Following Keith’s move to Buxton with his wife Helen and family, he threw himself into local Labour politics, being active for over 30 years and a councillor for almost half that time. He was first elected to High Peak Council in 1995, becoming a champion of local arts. He was founder of Buxton Film, making annual visits to the NFT in London to source films for the festival. He was chair of Buxton Fringe for six years, culminating in the wonderful success of Fringe 40 celebrations in 2019. Keith believed strongly that widening access and appreciation of music and culture was central to a socialist understanding of life. His last post on the council was as arts champion, where he leaves a significant legacy: the High Peak Arts Forum.

Latterly Keith became more deeply involved in environmental protection. He commissioned articles for Chartist from his friend and nature writer Mark Cocker, while writing himself on initiatives to green the local economy and enhance biodiversity. As a lifelong Arsenal fan, part of his heart remained in London despite his love of the Peak District. Keith was a self-effacing but committed activist, always reliable for intelligent comment, copy and conversation laced with a wry sense of humour. He was about to complete a review of jazz music when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He is survived by Helen and children Toby and Jess.

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