Champion of Kiwi music, peace and community dies

Daniel Keighley with his family, from left Danyel Cook-Lyon, Alessandra Keighley, Jospeph Cook-Lyon and Ruby Keighley.
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Daniel Keighley with his family, from left Danyel Cook-Lyon, Alessandra Keighley, Jospeph Cook-Lyon and Ruby Keighley.

One of New Zealand's great champions of Kiwi music, peace and community has died.

Daniel Keighley, one of the founders of the Sweetwaters and Parihaka International Peace festivals, along with Access Radio Taranaki, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was 62.

Before his death, Keighley spoke about his life and the highlights of his career. 

Daniel Keighley, in his studio at the Access Taranaki radio station.
Robert Charles

Daniel Keighley, in his studio at the Access Taranaki radio station.

"I'm very proud of my contribution to the growth of New Zealand music nationally and internationally. When I was a kid, nobody had the slightest interest in New Zealand music," he said.

"By my mid-20s, I had created shows whereby New Zealand artists co-headlined with internationals, which had never happened before."

He is talking about the first Sweetwaters in 1980, when he insisted Split Enz was given the same importance as Elvis Costello.

"The only one who could make a difference was the promoter."

Keighley had that fight on his hands every year right up until he stepped back from Sweetwaters in 1985.

"It was like being on an equal footing with a New Zealand artist lessened their standing."

The annual music festival, which attracted tens of thousands of attendees, ran from 1980 to 1986.

Daniel also ran fundraising gigs for New Zealand's first Women's Refuge, organised special radio shows featuring Kiwi music that he paid to run on commercial stations and took New Zealand artists on university orientation tours.

He also managed some New Zealand bands, including the Mutton Birds, Coconut Rough, Blam Blam Blam, Screaming Meemees and the Newmatics. 

Close friend and music industry stalwart Trevor Reekie says he became close to Keighley when they lived in the same London flat in 1980.

"For 35 years I have known Dan, who's always had a passion for life and for music. He was an enabler. He helped a lot of people get a break – artists, glass blowers and musicians," Reekie said.

"Mostly I knew him as a caring and passionate human being. He was a good man."

In 1999, Keighley resurrected Sweetwaters but that ended in financial disaster, leading to him being jailed for document forgery. In his book, Sweetwaters, The Untold Story, he tells a chilling tale of gangs, violence and being fleeced by frontline staff. 

After he was released, he landed a job as an event manager for the South Taranaki District Council. 

As part of this job, he was given permission to attend the 18th and 19th celebrations at Parihaka every month.

The relationships he forged with Parihaka elders, especially his friendship with Te Miringa Hohaia, along with his festival knowledge led to him being asked to organise the first Parihaka International Peace Festival.

Even his prison background was embraced as a plus – he was seen as someone who understood the plight of many of Parihaka's young people.

Keighley helped organise the 2006 festival and then handed it over.

"Two to three weeks before the event, he (Hohaia) asked if I would step down. It was very gentle and loving, the whole thing. If there were going to be accolades he wanted them to come to the young people – he was right."

The next great adventure for Keighley and wife Alessandra, was to start up Access Radio Taranaki, with the first broadcast on June 10, 2010.

"Daniel was the original conceiver of the station, gaining a supportive trust board and the backing of community groups," she said. 

"Access Radio was like an everyday festival – we found a good place to come and be."

Keighley is survived by Alessandra, sons Joseph and Danyel Cook-Lyon and daughter Ruby Keighley.

 - Stuff

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