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How Billy Clayton captured the hearts of Norwich - and its music scene

PUBLISHED: 11:00 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:46 29 March 2019

Billy Clayton

Billy Clayton

Archant

He was just 22 years old, but his musical talent attracted the attention of some of the music industry's biggest stars.

Let's Eat Grandma members Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth with Billy Clayton at the Billy Clayton Fundraiser at Epic Studios. PHOTO: Sophie SmithLet's Eat Grandma members Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth with Billy Clayton at the Billy Clayton Fundraiser at Epic Studios. PHOTO: Sophie Smith

On Wednesday, it was announced via social media that Billy Clayton, the young musician from Norwich, had lost his battle with cancer.

Posting an emotional tribute on Twitter, Becky Lawrence, Billy’s mother said “my beautiful darling boy Billy had to go to his new home in another realm.

“He held on for so long and had more strength than anyone could ever imagine. But his body would no longer allow him to live the life the so desperately wished for and soul needed to escape.”

The former City of Norwich School and Access To Music student, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma - an aggressive form of bone cancer - aged 18.

Norwich musician Billy Clayton, pictured with his mother Becky Lawrence. 
Photo: supplied by Becky LawrenceNorwich musician Billy Clayton, pictured with his mother Becky Lawrence. Photo: supplied by Becky Lawrence

Last year, when the then 21-year-old exhausted all treatment options in the UK, a campaign was launched to pay for life-saving treatment abroad and in answer to the call to support the young musician, Norwich’s music community rallied around.

Among the artists who supported the campaign to raise the £200,000 needed for Billy’s treatment were Let’s Eat Grandma, who headlined a benefit for Billy at Epic Studios in September alongside Franko Fraize, Ducking Punches and Bessie Turner.

Another Norwich band, Liqueur, a The Cure tribute band, also organised a fundraising gig in November having known Billy and his mother since he was a child.

Elsewhere in Norwich, Jason ‘Hewy’ Hewit, the owner of HD13 Custom Tattoo on Grapes Hill, offered customers rose tattoos in aid of Billy, donating all the proceeds from the £70 designs towards the online campaign to help pay for the young musician’s treatment.

But, it wasn’t just the local community which rallied around to support Billy, with chart-topping artists also supporting him.

In November last year Charlie XCX threw a fund raiser for Billy in LA, called The Billy Ball, at which she performed alongside Dorian Electra and Allie X.

Following the news of Billy’s death, Allie X posted on Twitter: “Billy Clayton you couldn’t have fought harder. Rest in Power beautiful boy.”

In her moving tribute, Billy’s mother said he was “one of the most genuinely talented and special people ever”.

“Throughout the extremely difficult times, which he had no choice but to endure, Billy passionately created his music and art and never stopped believing that he would achieve anything that he wanted,” she said.

Ian Johnson, partnerships manager and head of artist development at Access to Music in Norwich, where Billy was a student, said: “When I first met Billy he told me about his illness and the battle with his health, and it became clear we needed to do what we could to support him and his creative endeavours.

“Although Billy wasn’t always able to attend class physically due to treatment, his passion and commitment to his art meant that he still graduated with a distinction.”

He said Billy formed incredible friendships with staff and students past and present while at the college, and added: “Billy has left a lasting impression on all of us and as an example of a creative young man who had more determination and courage than anybody else I’ve ever met.

“He will always be in our thoughts.”

• If you would like to pay tribute to Billy, email sabrina.johnson@archant.co.uk

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