Radio founder Ivan Howlett dies

BBC Radio Suffolk's founder editor Ivan Howlett has died after a long struggle with cancer.

TRIBUTES are flooding in this afternoon after the news that BBC Radio Suffolk's founder editor Ivan Howlett has died after a long struggle with cancer.

Mr Howlett founded the station in 1990 and managed it for many years before leaving to work on other projects for the BBC.

He was also well-known in the theatre in Suffolk and was a regular supporter of live productions.

James Hehir, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, said: “Ivan and I both served on the Suffolk New College Corporation and quickly became friends 19 years ago.

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“Ivan was the inspiration and creative energy behind the launch of BBC Radio Suffolk.

“Ivan was a remarkable man, infectious and the most enthusiastic person I have ever known, it was a privilege to be in his company. “He always spoke from the heart and he loved his family.

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“He will be greatly missed and Ipswich is a far sadder place without him.”

Nick Pandolfi, an SGR presenter who worked with Mr Howlett at Radio Suffolk, also paid tribute this afternoon.

He said: “I know there will be many people who will like me have so many fond memories of a great Suffolk man.

“He is in my and I know in so many others minds a true Suffolk hero. Without Ivan, Suffolk would not have had the BBC for a few years longer, countless journalists would not have had a break in a radio newsroom and without Ivan network radio would have a few holes in its schedule.

“I first met him at the suggestion of John Peel - a meeting followed, with his background in theatre we had loads to talk about and I forgot why I was there (to get a job).

“He had a story for every occasion and was kind or daft enough to give me a break in live radio.

“My years with him as a boss will be treasured. I, like countless people before and since, had a deal with Ivan and that was he set you free on the radio and you then rewarded him by helping him find his keys.

“He was the most humane of human beings, never a yes man and always a true friend.

“His talent for spotting a good story or a new angle for a programme feature should be, if it isn't already, the stuff of legend with the BBC.

“A defender of his staff and their rights, a man that had Suffolk in his DNA and a man that loved the place he called home.

“He would often tease me about being a east Suffolk boy and how in the west of the county things were different.

“Ivan thank you for being you, Suffolk is richer for your work, if we are now sadly poorer.”

Sharon Jenkins, Marketing and Press Officer at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, added: “I have known Ivan since I started working at the New Wolsey in 2001 and he has been a constant source of advice and inspiration.

“His enthusiasm was immeasurable and I was in constantly in awe of his energy.

“I loved him for his passion and his support for the New Wolsey but on a more personal note I enjoyed his company and always looked forward to seeing him and Lindsey on press nights.

“Ivan was the loveliest man and he will be missed an awful lot by me and my colleagues at the theatre.”

Ivan Cutting, founder of the Eastern Angles Theatre Company - Mr Howlett was a board member - has also paid a moving tribute this afternoon.

He said: “His knowledge of this county was enormous, and he knew absolutely everyone.

“He was a one-man encyclopaedia who was always able to find the little man or woman at the bottom of most famous events. And he was passionate about seeing that history on stage or on radio and getting out into the wider world.

“His constant gripe was the suits who had taken over institutions like the BBC and the Arts Council, and the need to be ever vigilant against the dumbing down of life and culture.

“He served on our Board and was well-known for high-jacking the meeting with a story, but then also pulling us up by our bootstraps with a challenge to our thinking.

“And even in the last few days he's been helping me secure the future of the company with strong-minded advice - “I can say what I like now”, he said.

“And he was forever encouraging people to get up and do things, kick-starting people like me with opportunities to direct and write for radio, or at Suffolk College, where he beetled around behind the scenes, coaxing people into giving their time and energies to both the New College and University.

“For years I dreamed of doing a two-man show with him, the two Ivans, although I know I would have ended up as the straight man and feed for his anecdotes. But it would have been worth it.

“Hello Ivan, it's Ivan” is how I'll remember him.”

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