ROLAND Walls, organiser of the long-running Black Swan Folk Club in York, has died.

A statement on the club's website reads: "Roland Walls (1954-2019), our club organiser and lynchpin for many years, passed away on June 26th 2019. We're all devastated. Our thoughts go out to his partner Sue, his Mum and his family. RIP Roland, we'll miss you so much."

The club meets every Thursday in an upstairs room at the Black Swan Inn, in Peasholme Green, where Mr Walls regularly brought the best names in folk, as well as emerging talents, both national and local. In 2009, the Black Swan won the Folk Club of the Year accolade in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

From 2001, Mr Walls also arranged folk concerts at the National Centre for Early Music, in Walmgate, in tandem with the NCEM.

Suffering from Motor Neurone Disease since 2018, he nevertheless organised the annual City of York Weekend at the Black Swan, where 45 acts performed from May 31 to June 2.

"In the end I've again done a lot of the organisation, with advice and assistance from Stan Graham and Chris Euesden," he wrote in the club's email newsletter. "Stan will be in overall charge on the weekend itself but I hope to put in an appearance each day myself, health permitting."

Those words were written for the May 15 edition, where Mr Walls announced: "It is now four months since the last of these newsletters and for a long while I thought I would never manage another one. My MND is getting remorselessly worse and my hands are now so weak and distorted that I find using a keyboard and mouse very difficult.

"At the same time my speech is getting increasingly slurred, meaning that dictation software is much less effective than used to be the case and makes a great many mistakes. Nevertheless, here I finally go again, though quite possibly for the last time."

York Press:

"Roland was a truly memorable man," says Delma Tomlin, director of the NCEM, where he organised folk concerts from 2001

The NCEM's director, Delma Tomlin, said she would "miss Roland in so many ways". "He was an exceptional character, extraordinarily knowledgable about folk music and very clear about what would, or would  not, work for the audience," she said.

"He was also very willing to share this knowledge: something that the NCEM has particularly benefited from. He was also, unsurprisingly given his working life, an able administrator with a firm eye for detail and he always kept us ‘up to the mark’ when it came to publicity details.  The NCEM, audience and people of York will surely miss Mr Black Swan Folk Club - a truly memorable man." 

Joe Coates, fellow York music promoter for Please Please You and at The Crescent, paid this tribute: "Roland's dedication to the Black Swan Folk Club is unparalleled, 30-plus years of weekly bookings plus a load of special concerts a year. In his spare time!

"His knowledge of the folk scene and broad and varied taste made the club vital and interesting for all music fans in our city.

"Friend, educator and irrepressible booker of the good stuff for the Black Swan, he was also one of the nicest men around. I’ll miss him. York will too."

Chris Euesden, from the Black Swan Folk Club, said: "Roland has been the focus and inspiration for live folk and roots-related music in and around the city of York for the past 40 years. Neither musician nor performer, he dedicated his spare time to encouraging, supporting and promoting a huge variety of music events.

"He was a true champion of all music related to folk traditions and cultures, which he tirelessly supported and encouraged.

"There can hardly be a touring musician on the national folk music circuit who hasn’t at some time in those 40 years made an appearance at the club."

Born into a North Yorkshire farming family and a Cambridge graduate, Mr Walls's commitment to serving the community also . was evident in his professional life as a librarian at the main York City Library and later, until retirement, as a senior regional manager in Northallerton.