Mat Bayfield – Life’s No Rehearsal

Many people knew Mat Bayfield better than I. We didn’t go to school together, didn’t play cricket or football together, I was never in a band with him. In truth I knew Mat for a relatively short period of time. Nevertheless, we became friends and his passing has left a hole.

I first met Mat backstage at Ipswich Music Day. He and Eric were about to go play in the Grapevine tent as The Broadside Boys, he was looking for water, I helped him find some. Little did I know that day how much that son of a gamekeeper would come to mean to me.

Our paths would cross from time to time at gigs, I got to know his songs, became fascinated by his lyrics. He taught me so much about my adopted county through his song writing. I would take great delight in winding him up by saying that, whilst he had had the good fortune to be born in Suffolk, I had made a conscious choice to live here.

Nor will I pretend to know how Mat felt when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. His subsequent very public fight against it became inspirational to many of us. He harnessed the power of positive thinking. “Life’s no rehearsal” became his mantra. He genuinely wanted us to understand what that meant, it wasn’t just a catch phrase.

Recently, Mat began a collaboration with producer and musician David Booth and ‘Bayfield Booth’ was born. In truth this was far more about friendship than any commercial arrangement. They asked me to photograph a song-writing session and so I went from a shoot in one of the best-known studios in London one day to a tiny little schoolhouse in Suffolk the next – Mat never let me get above myself!

We came up with some crazy ideas, one that never quite took off was the FolkEast Live Lounge. In Mat’s mind, if it was good enough for the BBC at Glastonbury why couldn’t we do it in Suffolk at the greatest festival in the shires of Eastfolk!

Alongside my friend Julz, I photographed Mat’s wedding to Kelly, despite having told them both that ‘we don’t do weddings’! It was probably the most nerve wracking piece of work I have ever undertaken. We even planned the shoot in Lego – I kid you not! Mat was immensely proud of the results we produced that day. Despite us ‘not doing weddings’ Julz and I were equally honoured to be given the opportunity.

Mat and I, along with our designated drivers, Kelly and Kathy were frequently the last ones to leave The Froize in the early hours of Monday morning after an evening of folk music on Sunday evening. These were not heavy drinking sessions, we all just enjoyed each other’s company, we’d exchange stories and just talk, laugh and enjoy life – Living Life for The Day.

Mat was a very ordinary yet extraordinary man. To have known him was a privilege, to have become his friend, an honour. But my feeling of loss is nothing compared to what his Mum, Dad, children and wife are feeling now, and will continue to feel. My thoughts are with them – Hold on Tight.