24 January 2000
For immediate release
Sussex folk singer Bob Copper will be among those receiving honorary degrees at the University of Sussex Winter Graduation Ceremony on 27 January.
Mr Copper, whose family has lived in the Rottingdean area since at least the 16th century, has kept alive a tradition of singing farming songs which dates back to his great-great-grandfather.
Now 85, he still performs with his son John, daughter Jill and his six grandchildren. He has written several books on the subject, including the prize-winning A Song for Every Season. The work includes archive material about his father Jim, who was once the subject of a BBC Home Service drama documentary.
He and his family have also gained international acclaim for their harmonised singing and are invited to North America every year to appear at folk festivals.
Mr Copper, who worked as farm labourer as a boy and was a detective constable for West Sussex Constabulary from 1937-46, said: "It's extremely gratifying to receive this degree. I am not an academic type."
"I realised I was singing the last chapter of a long story. I knew that the way I was brought up was going to disappear. But I haven't kept up the tradition just for the sake of it. As a family we loved each other's company and loved singing the songs. It has appealed to every generation. There's no sense of duty about it."
Mr Copper will be presented with his honorary degree at the Gardner Arts Centre by the University's Chancellor, Lord Attenborough.
The presentation speech will be given by Professor Alun Howkins, who said: "For me this is a proud moment in which I can help to give something back to Bob Copper for the huge pleasure and inspiration he has provided to those of my generation who loved the old music and the old songs. Without him, and his belief in the value of his family tradition, we would be hugely poorer."
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