A brief celebration from his friend Alan Dearling
Early morning, by email, Phil contacted me about a music review we were working together on. He then went out for his customary morning run on a Wednesday a few weeks ago. Returned home, had a heart attack, was placed in an induced coma. His life-support was turned off the following weekend. He was an organ donor. Vikki, Phil’s wife told me: “The wonderful thing that has come out of it, is that Phil has been able to donate his kidneys and liver to help save the lives of three others. Various medical teams were on hand around the country to receive the organs and the patients were in theatre waiting.” I later heard that his eyes were also donated to new recipients.
I met Phil first as one of the original co-organisers of The Grizzly, an inspirational and marginally bonkers all-terrain race which has become one of the most over-subscribed long-distance running events in the UK. From the late 1980s he quickly became a close friend. We holidayed together, went to gigs and festivals (and did our share of after-exercise pints), and ran and walked many hundreds, indeed, thousands of miles together. But he also acted as my copy-editor and inspirational supporter and colleague. He worked with me on social policy books, my two novels and books about festivals, new Travellers, environmental projects and cultural diversity in Africa, Turkey and Australia. And for over ten years Phil assisted me with my music and arts articles and reviews for ‘Gonzo’ magazine (www.gonzoweekly.com) and more recently for ‘International Times’ (www.internationaltimes.it). For me and these magazines he was one hell of an ‘unsung hero’. I’m missing dreadfully his cheerful companionship, encouragement and creative criticism, interspersed with deviations into reggae and blues music, books, films and other interests such as his visits to the subversive ‘Dismaland’ (partly curated by Banksy and the KLF) and the on-land oil rig/play park. These are his pics.
Like myself, Phil had a number of ‘lives’. He had been a journalist, a community education teacher and adult educator, photography tutor, gained a doctorate, and latterly was an innovator in training for prison educators based from Plymouth University. For many, he was lifelong sports-person, helping in organising, running, swimming and cycling events. He was motivated to strive to be the best he could be, and trained hard in swimming and cycling to achieve his ambitions to participate in a number of Iron Man challenges around the world. He particularly enjoyed our shared adventures as part of the Legbenders, a team set up to take part in the HOTBOT challenge along the UK’s South-West Coast Path, the start was in Sidmouth and the finish at East Portlemouth on the Kingsbridge Estuary (about 74miles).
Runners took turns to run/jog/walk pre-set ‘sections’ of the HOTBOT route and had to follow a route map. It included ferries across the Exe, and the other team members had to travel in their own vehicle to meet up with the next leg-weary runner.
The relay team and organisers were from Cambridge University and were very much the ‘favourites’. We’d have bet on them. But, and it was a big BUT, we were very experienced in running the South-West Coast Path.
It was a monumental challenge and Garry was almost completely zonked by the end. I think he’d run about 50 miles or more on some really arduous ‘leg-benders’!
The LEGBENDERS were victorious. Cream teas and beers and more were much enjoyed by all.
Alan, Garry, Phil and Dave – the original Legbenders!
But most of all he was a proper ‘mate’.
Phil’s was woodland burial. It was real celebration of Phil’s myriad, multi-faceted ‘lives’. Father, husband, grandparent, a prodigious long-distance runner. Essentially he was kind, generous and positive.
Down in Seaton, Devon, over 200 attended at the grave for woodland burial and after at a community centre for the eulogy. I was one of the pall-bearers of different heights. Small at front, me at back. Bit scary across an uneven field. But a privilege.
A well thought-out and executed event. It even included two a cappella singers, recorded music in the woodland and original poems.
Luv ‘n respect to Phil, Vikki, his family and many friends.
Dave, Alan and Phil in Happy Leg-bending times