Hundreds pay tribute to John Peel
THE mixture of people who turned out to remember the nation's favourite broadcaster was as wide and diverse as the music he championed.Few who travelled to Bury St Edmunds yesterday for the funeral of John Peel knew the veteran DJ or ever met him - but to them, he was like a close friend, with with a voice as familiar as that of any family member.
THE mixture of people who turned out to remember the nation's favourite broadcaster was as wide and diverse as the music he championed.
Few who travelled to Bury St Edmunds yesterday for the funeral of John Peel knew the veteran DJ or ever met him - but to them, he was like a close friend, with with a voice as familiar as that of any family member.
Thousands amassed outside St Edmundsbury Cathedral in the build up to the 1pm service, with those in traditional mourning dress seamlessly intermingled with a sea of others who chose to pay their respects in more brightly coloured clothing.
And the blonde mohicans, body piercings, tie-dye t-shirts and dreadlocks all in evidence simply served to illustrate one thing - the massive range of people touched by Mr Peel's tireless work.
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“I came here because I had a real sense of connection with somebody who, through the radio, lived in my front room,” said Raga Woods, who got up at 5am to leave her home in Oxford.
“I listened to the Home Truths programme in bed and in the bath, and found him very moving. He had a certain magic and incredible skill, and would have me sitting on the edge of my seat.
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“I am almost the same age as him, and he was somebody who was always in the background. But Home Truths really brought him into my life, and it was like a distant cousin had suddenly become a member of my close family.
“I decided to dress in lots of colours as I think John would've liked that. It just seems fitting.”
Some wore t-shirts specially made for the day, with one, created by Ipswich woman Claire Shilton, summing up the feelings of a nation, reading simply “John Peel - Good Bloke”.
Raymond Fayers, 75, from Bury, said: “Being Suffolk born and bred, we always listened to John Peel, from his days on Radio London.
“He is a legend, and it says something that the BBC had a lot of blood baths in terms of getting rid of staff, and he survived them all.”
As more and more mourners arrived to pay their respects, the sea of floral tributes - including messages from Sir Elton John and Nicky Campbell - began to grow, with a rainbow of yellows, purples, whites and reds all on display.
And behind the collection lay a large card reading “John - We Miss You” - summing up the sentiments of everyone gathered.
“There is no one else like him. His appeal spanned the ages from eight-year-olds to 80-year-olds, and this is such a sad loss,” said 16-year-old Florence Arnold, who lives in Stanton. “Me and my friends are into all the local bands, and it was like John Peel was one of us - only he had the power to play these acts on national radio. He was just so well-respected and so unique.”
With the capacity of the Cathedral quickly filled, more than a thousand people chose to take part in the proceedings from the lawns outside.
And before the service began, a hushed silence fell upon the crowds as organ music was piped through speakers to those gathered under a greying sky.
As the line of hearses moved into view, the quiet was replaced by applause and cheering yet as the coffin, adorned in bright red flowers to pay homage to the broadcaster's beloved Liverpool FC, was carried into the Cathedral, only the tolling of a single bell could be heard.
“I found out that John Peel championed so many of the bands I like now, such as Pulp and the White Stripes,” said Rosie Culter, 16. “It was all down to him. His influence was massive on every single genre he played.
“We were in the video shop when we found out he had died, and just started crying. When we found out the funeral was at the Cathedral, there was no way we could not come.”
But after the service had begun and the sounds of Howlin' Wolf's Going Down Slow were played, the tears were replaced by smiles - for this was the music this DJ loved best.
“I grew up with John Peel, and was a 15-year-old listening to his show underneath my bed covers, the same as everyone else,” said Sean Neylon, who travelled from Chelmsford for the service. “He was like a distant uncle.
“When he turned 40, I remember wondering how someone of his age could still like the kind of music that he did, but now I am 40 I can appreciate it myself.
“I wonder now who is going to lead young bands through onto the major radio stations. I cannot see anybody else having the same kind of impact.”