Educated Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Queen's University, Belfast, (BSc. Econ.) and London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Before entering television he made many broadcasts as an actor and narrator for BBC Northern Ireland, played Hamlet at University and directed a production of Tiger at the Gates which won the 2nd National Union of Students Drama Award.
He started television career with Ulster Television in Belfast as Programme Director 1960 - 1968. Moved to London and to London Weekend Television 1969 - 1977. He was Senior Director on LWT's network arts series Aquarius, edited by Humphrey Burton; when Humphrey left to go to the BBC he took over as Editor with Peter Hall as Presenter. During his years on Aquarius he made many full-length documentaries including: (Seamus) Heaney in Limboland 1970, The Other Belfast 1971, Blarney & Bellini (Wexford Opera Festival), Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) in New Orleans, the first Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Israel, the Traditional Arts of Iran with H.R.H. Empress Farah, Twyla Tharp’s Eight Jelly Rolls, Edna O’Brien's Mother Ireland and Profiles of Peter Hall, the Amadeus Quartet. In 1977 for the new South Bank Show he produced and directed MacMillan's Mayerling a performance documentary about the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; for this programme he was awarded ITV's first (Music) Prix Italia.
In 1977 Derek went freelance with colleagues and formed Landseer Film & Television Productions. Since then among his major credits include documentaries on: The Hermitage in Leningrad with Peter Ustinov and Natalie Wood, the French Chanson, Northern Irish Writers, J.R.R.Tolkien, the Kirov Ballet, the Russian Church, Russell Harty's Grand Tour (x5) and profiles of Natalia Makarova, Alan Ayckbourn, James Galway, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Franco Zeffirelli, Dame Joan Sutherland, Petula Clark, Tony Hancock, Elizabeth Frink and Bing Crosby.
Performance Documentaries include: Music in Time - 16 part history of music with James Galway for Polytel/ZDF Channel 4, Ballerina - 4 part series with Natalia Makarova and Dancer - 4 part series with Peter Schaufuss for BBC; writer and director of programmes on Haydn and Mendelssohn with Peter Ustinov for EuroArts.
He has also directed many studio recordings: Billboards with the Joffrey Ballet, The Upper Room with Twyla Tharp, Kenneth MacMillian's Seven Deadly Sins and Winter Dreams with the Royal Ballet, and many live and recorded opera and ballet relays from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, the Bolshoi and La Scala Milan.
He has also directed the epic 18 hour Chinese Opera The Peony Pavilion in Paris for RM Arts and Bill Bryden's The Mysteries, the cycle of medieval mystery plays at the Royal National Theatre for C4.
Choreographers and directors whose work Derek Bailey has directed for TV include:- Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Bill Bryden, Sir Peter Wright, Luca Ronconi, Per Luigi Pizzi, David Freeman, Deborah Warner, Christopher Alden, Sir Peter Hall, Nicholaus Lehnhoff and Dario Fo.