click for a few photographs
The night before, staying with Tom Pickard up on the moors, we looked at snatches of video of happier times (Durham, four years back). We picked up Bobby in Newcastle and eventually, thanks to a man with the air of local government who gave precise directions, twice, found the Crematorium. It was raining. The room was packed. High ceiling, purple curtains, plain tall windows showing ivy outside. No religious ceremonies for Bill, “Forever Young” playing as the coffin passed down the centre. Geraldine Monk read quietly. Nicolas Johnson followed. Bill Lancaster spoke eloquently. Family, friends, neighbours remembered Bill warmly in his many facets. There were people from far away, representatives from Northumbria University Press, writers with links to Bill going back more than thirty-five years. At the half-way point the sun came out turning the red and pale green ivy leaves into organic stained glass. Then the tall purple curtains closed.
At Seaham (rough sea, grey waves breaking)(the site of the colliery blowing grass with a sign advertising 400 houses to be built) there was whiskey, beer, tea: and a spread of cakes, pastries and pies Bill would have relished at the Vane-Tempest Miners Social Club. I noticed no representative of the Shun A’Biro Corporate Creative Writing bloc. But their Art-as-an-enticement-to-business ethos, re-forming history to pose in a suit against bad architecture, wouldn’t even notice the loss of a man who did more for the arts and culture of the North-East in two decades than they have clean shirts and mentors: and it must be hard to move with a Northern Rock tied around your ankles.