Adrian Sudbury, the regional newspaper journalist who died from leukaemia in August, urged his family and friends to take over his campaign for better education on bone marrow donation in a written message read out at his memorial service today.
Prime minister Gordon Brown, Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey and Five News presenter Natasha Kaplinsky were among the figures to provide pre-recorded video tributes which were played at the memorial for the 27-year-old Huddersfield Examiner digital journalist, who won a string of awards for his blog about his illness.
Sudbury, who died on 20 August after an 18-month battle against the illness, devoted the final months of his life to urging the Government to make information on bone marrow donation available to all sixth form students.
In a written message to the congregation at Sheffield Cathedral this afternoon, Sudbury said: ‘Some people will think it was somehow my life’s purpose to kick off this campaign and of course, had I never been ill, this would probably never have happened.
‘You do realise it falls on all of you to make sure this comes off now.
‘I can’t help but wonder what I could have gone on to achieve with better opportunities and a disease-free life.
‘Look how much one person can achieve when they set their minds to it. We all have to make the ability to make these changes if we so choose.”
His father, Keith, said it was now everyone’s responsibility to make sure his son’s campaign produced results.
‘The beauty of Adrian’s campaign is its simplicity – educate 17 and 18-year-olds so they can make an informed choice,’he said.
‘I hope we can all continue to work to see Adrian’s wish come to fruition.”
Gordon Brown pays tribute
In a video message played at the service, Gordon Brown – who met Sudbury in June– said his campaigning work to improve education about leukaemia among teenagers had ‘changed the attitudes of thousands of people”.
‘He had achieved in a short life was so much greater than what many people achieved in long lives,’Brown said.
‘He had changed the way we look at bone marrow donation. He changed the attitudes of thousands of people.
‘That is something that will not just be long remembered. The influence will spread over many years. People will not forget.”
Five News presenter Natasha Kaplinsky, who was one of many journalists to have interviewed Sudbury, said in a pre-recorded video message: ‘In the job I do I’m very often asked of all the people I’ve ever interviewed who was the most impressive.
‘The answer everyone expects is a list of A-list stars, prime ministers and pop stars. But that isn’t my answer.
‘The person who’s impressed me most is a man called Adrian Sudbury – he moved and inspired so many people.”
Sly Bailey, the chief executive of Trinity Mirror, parent company of the Huddersfield Examiner where Sudbury worked, said his campaigning work had had a ‘profound effect”.
‘It is particularly tragic that Adrian’s qualities as such a fantastic journalist only really came to the fore because of the enormously personal nature of what he was going through and how he was coping with it,’she said.
‘Adrian has had a very profound effect on our organisation as a result of his dignity and his courage and his spirit.”
Sheffield-born actor Sean Bean read an extract from the poem On Death by Khalil Gibran at the service. Bean met the Huddersfield journalist when they supported a fundraising appeal at Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield.
A montage of photos from various stages of Sudbury’s life was played to the soundtrack of Sheffield band the Arctic Monkeys – one of the groups that Sudbury used to listen to when recovering from the gruelling regime of treatment.
The service also featured pre-recorded video tributes from his colleagues at the Huddersfield Examiner.
In a tearful speech at the end of the service, Adrian’s mother, Kay, added: ‘We are very proud of Adrian but for all that we celebrate together today and all his achievements, he was our lad, he was our boy. And we have lost him.
‘Adrian, we love you and we miss you and we’ll never forget you. Thank you to all of you for being here with us today.”
Sudbury was named digital journalist of the year at this year’s Regional Press Awards for his Baldy’s Blog, where he chronicled his illness and treatment, explaining complex medical procedures in everyday language.
The judges said ‘the subject matter for this journalist is exceptional, compelling and emotional’and praised the blog’s professionalism.
They praised Sudbury for ‘really understanding the medium and the conversational nature of the readers in an extremely powerful way”.
He won a worldwide following for his work. In November 2007, he was named best international blogger at the weblog awards in Las Vegas. A month earlier, he won the prize for best online feature at the Guild of Health Writers Awards.
Sudbury contracted two rare forms of cancer in November 2006, days after being promoted to a digital journalist role at the Examiner, taking a lead role on its website.
At one point he made a recovery, and returned to work, but the bone marrow transplant was ultimately unsuccessful and after complications Sudbury decided to end treatment earlier this year.
Sudbury began his career at the Express and Chronicle Series in Holmfirth as a junior reporter in 2003, after completing a journalism course at Norton College in Sheffield, before moving to the Examiner three years later.