A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance of adult education and mentioned some of the stalwart writer-tutor-organisers in North East England. Yesterday I heard that one of them, Michael Standen, had passed away suddenly. Michael had been one of the activists in North East literature since I was in short trousers, as an editor and writer as well as in his long-time day job at the WEA. He was also a key member of the editorial group of Other Poetry magazine, and of Colpitts Poetry, the long running reading series in Durham. He had just marked turning 70 with a fine selected poems published by Shoestring Press, who had also published a festschrift of poems by Michael's many poet friends.
Obviously my sympathies go to Michael’s family and friends, especially his wife Val. He was both exceptional in his qualities and typical of many people who keep the arts – perhaps especially literature – going in the small corners of our country. Although I never got a note from him without some implicit - or indeed explicit - exhortation to get rid of our application forms, he still treated me as a collaborator in our literary culture and always put the work first. Michael had been around long enough to remember the days things could be sorted out over a quiet chat with the literature officer. Mind you, so have I, and though we had slightly different takes on that era, we had the same ends in mind. We would also swap stories of committees, organisational frustrations and the awkwardness of having to take ‘tough decisions’. He was a patient, kind and funny man, but with the stubbornness necessary to put on poetry readings for decades. Few of you that read this will know who he was, but trust me, there are very few of his like, and he will be sadly missed.