A new exhibition has opened at the University of Huddersfield’s Heritage Quay exploring the life and work of guitarist Derek Bailey.

Called ‘Free to Improvise: The Derek Bailey Story’ the exhibition features items from his personal collection which is stored at Heritage Quay.

Bailey (1930-2005) was a major driving force in the development of Free Improvisation, a style of music that relies on intuition rather than set rules.

Bailey’s remarkable musical journey began in Sheffield, with a young lad entranced by the music he heard on his uncle’s radio, and fascinated by the guitar.

After leaving school he began to pick up work as a musician and by the 1960s was playing for big names including Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield and Morecambe and Wise.

Around 1969 he left behind this successful – though always precarious – career as a commercial musician to concentrate solely on Free Improvisation.

Intent on a sort of music which went beyond style and genre, he worked with people all over the world, ran a record label, Incus, and brought very different people together for spontaneous, organic music-making.

Heritage Quay’s latest exhibition tells this story, using photographs, notebooks, letters, programmes, and the plectrums Bailey made himself using dental acrylic (below).

Many of the items on display have never been seen by the public before. They are all part of the Derek Bailey Archive, which is cared for by Heritage Quay.

The exhibition is part of Heritage Quay’s Kirklees Year of Music series. It is free and open Monday to Saturday from August 14 to September 30.

Heritage Quay is at the heart of the University of Huddersfield campus and directions can be found via this link Directions | Heritage Quay