Born in Torquay, Devon, David R. Rowe (or Doc, as he has always been known) has been documenting folklore, song, dance and cultural traditions for over 30 years, collecting an archive of material on both past and contemporary popular culture in Britain. Often focusing on annual traditional events, the collection contains a wide variety of media including video, film, photography, and audio.
Rowe attained a degree in Fine Art from Newton Abbot, Leeds Regional and Hornsey Colleges of Art before spending a post-graduate year at University of London. In 1963 he joined the folk club circuit, introducing him to BBC producer Charles Parker, who was working on the BBC Radio Ballads (1957-64) with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, with whom he had a close working relationship over a number of years. Throughout the seventies, Rowe worked in education for Inner London Education Authority, both as teacher and in a variety of media advisory roles; finally working for The American School in London and later Hackney College, as Head of Media.
In 1979, Rowe moved to Sheffield to concentrate on field work and became a full-time volunteer at CECTAL. He has also worked regularly with Paul Smith on a variety of events, created regular exhibitions and worked on the Heritage Museum site in Ecclesall Road. Doc Rowe was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from University of Sheffield in 2002 for his research work into vernacular culture and traditional music, and in 2005 was awarded the English Folk Dance and Song Society's Gold Badge. In 2007, Rowe was presented with the Folklore Society's Coote Lake Medal for his research work. In October 2010, his expanding archive moved to a permanent site in Whitby, North Yorkshire.