Yesterday sadly I lost a very dear friend and found myself pausing to write a very difficult email to his wife and daughter.
Working within Social Services you get to know most of the staff around the county on one level or another and I had known Len for quite some time before we began working together in 1997. I had set up a Creative Arts programme for vulnerable adults and he became one of the staff engaged in that project which would run until 2007 when I took a sabbatical in India.
During the ten years we worked together we found ourselves directing and staging many well known musical productions including Jesus Christ Superstar, Fiddler on the Roof and Romeo and Juliet but we also found ourselves writing our own musical productions which were aimed specifically at the skills of the 200 people in our group. We needed to consider (for example) people with mobility problems, or those with no speech and there were also many with very complex impairments. To achieve what we needed to we had to be very creative and naturally work closely together which, as time went on, became the basis for a very close friendship. Lens own adaptation of Lord of the Rings was a fabulous testament to his writing and musical skills; it was also a wonderful example of how he was able to lead a staff team of ten and a cast of sixty through a twelve month programme to opening night and beyond. By ‘beyond’ what I mean is I don’t think I have ever come across someone who had all the time in the world to listen to the vulnerable people in his care in an effort to support them through all kinds of emotional issues the way he did.
But it wasn’t just his brilliant musical skills that remain in my memory of the man. It was also his generosity and loyalty. Len was a far more gifted musician than me but would always, always compliment me highly on any contribution I made which I have no doubt developed me considerably; indeed the fact I later became a professional musician was certainly partly due to the confidence Len inspired in me.
Alongside of his generosity came Lens loyalty. Over the years I often became the front man in arranging big music festivals, gigs and evenings, possibly because I have a tendency that way, but never far from my side was my right hand man who so often I could not have done without and who became a firm friend of my family.
Like most people I have, over the years, had many people come and go in my life some of whom I have trusted and brought into my inner circle only to find later they have betrayed me and caused me intense pain. Knowing the grieving process such things leave behind has left me very cautious about who I allow close to me but Len was certainly one of those who restored my faith in true friendships and who I would do anything for.
To Len I say thank you. Thank you for your music, your generosity, your humour, your support and for being the gentleman you were. But most of all thank you sincerely for your loyalty. I will never forget that and will never forget you x