Obituary: Jan Fairley, broadcaster, 63

Jan Fairley faced the end of her life in the same manner she lived it
Jan Fairley faced the end of her life in the same manner she lived it
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Tributes have been paid to a writer, broadcaster, lecturer, DJ and former director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Jan Fairley, who lived for many years in the Morningside area of the Capital, was a well-known and highly-respected figure in the world music scene.

She died peacefully on Saturday morning, at the age of 63, surrounded by members of her family.

A deep passion for music began at the age of four, when Ms Fairley started singing.

She began writing about music after she met members of the “new song” movement when teaching in Temuco, Chile, in the early 1970s.

After returning to the UK following the military coup of 1973, she completed a M Phil in Latin American Studies at Oxford University, before studying for a PhD in ethnomusicology at Edinburgh University. While studying in the Capital, she focused on the composing and performances of Karaxú!, a Paris-based group of Chilean exiles.

A keen traveller and fluent Spanish speaker, she would work once again in Chile in 1994, and also completed research in Cuba, Spain, Brazil, Argentina and Finland.

As a freelance journalist, she had academic work, articles and reviews published in a series of music publications as well as the mainstream press.

In 1987, Ms Fairley began researching, producing and presenting radio features and programmes. She presented Earthbeat for BBC Radio Scotland between 1990 and 1994, made various radio documentaries and was a member of the jury on the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards.

As the director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, between 1995 and 1997, she oversaw a dramatic rise in the popularity of the festival, attracting several big-name authors and putting the event firmly on the world book festival scene.

In 2004, she underwent a series of operations for breast cancer, but continued to work enthusiastically.

The cancer eventually spread to her colon, and she was informed earlier this year that she had just weeks to live.

After the diagnosis, she sent an upbeat message to friends inviting them to say goodbye, and in her final blog, posted on May 15, she wrote: “Do not leave till tomorrow what you can do today.”

After hearing of her death, Juan de Marcos Glez, former bandleader of the Cuban band Buena Vista Social Club, tweeted: “Today passed away my friend, the great journalist and musicologist Jan Fairley. Rest in peace, sister. See you later!”

She is survived by her children, Rachel, Tom and Fran, her grandchildren Kabe and Theo, her sister Mary and her brother Rod.

Her funeral is set to take place this weekend.