I can vividly remember my first lecture with Simon, we were in one of the larger lecture halls with each of us sat in rows. We were discussing deprivation and Simon mentioned two places, both of which he regarded ‘the shithole, back end towns’ of the UK. He was referring to Sunderland and Grimsby and what he meant, of course, was that despite once having thriving industries, in both towns the industry had dried up, and consequently poverty and deprivation had sunk in. I myself, had grown up in Grimsby leaving home for the first time to study my degree. I remember sneaking a glance at the other giggling students and feeling embarrassed. It was only with time and getting to know Simon that I discovered he too had spent some time growing up in the same town, and the aforementioned was just a snippet of the delightfully dry and witty humour that I soon became acquainted with.

I returned to Derby to see Simon on a few occasions and was always greeted with a big smile and encouraging, enthusiastic nods as I updated him on what I was currently up to. As I’ve similarly heard in many of the accounts here, Simon always had time for me. He very kindly provided a reference when (4 years after graduating) I finally plucked up the courage to study a master’s degree and later, whilst studying said degree, very kindly proof read a section of an essay I was particularly nervous about submitting.

I think that one of the biggest lessons I learnt from Simon was to write in my own words and not, as he coined it, ‘wearing a toupee’. This is something I maintained in later studies, feeling more confident using terms that I understood in the appropriate context, than attempting to throw in academic jargon to ‘sound clever’.

Simon had a wonderful and uncanny ability of using every day examples to bring a theory to life. So often his family, friends, ex-students or a TV programme he’d recently seen (namely Mad Men) would feature, but whatever he shared, it was always relatable and most often helped everything snap into place.

Simon’s wealth of knowledge was gigantic, matched only by his modesty. Despite his immense intellect, he never made you feel inferior or unable to ask him anything. He patiently waited for you to come to the conclusion, never hurrying or filling in, and his eyes would quite literally dance with excitement as you reached the answer – eagerly exclaiming ‘absolutely, absolutely’ to spur you on.

I am incredibly shocked and saddened by the news of Simon’s untimely passing, I will miss him dearly as I am sure so many other students shall too. I feel so very privileged to have been taught by such a bright, wonderful man, and I am forever grateful for all of his guidance, wisdom and support.

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  1. I don’t know what to say. But I have to say something. I’m left reeling by this. I knew Simon at Essex University. We met in the first week and had adjoining rooms. We were an odd pair. I was stick thin with the skin-tight jeans and spiked hair of a post-punk rocker and he had the look of George Harrison circa 1969. But we got on, as I imagine he got on with everyone. Simon had warmth that was infectious. He was charismatic too. He was definitely the funniest and cleverest person I had ever met. He was also a teacher, even when he didn’t mean to be. It was through Simon that I learned about Dylan, Cohen, Neil Young and a whole legion of classic artists whose music I had barely heard before (I was a teenage punk for whom 1977 had been year zero.) I remember his instant cartoons of the people and incidents in our shared flat, drawings that were vivid and managed to capture the essence of a moment or a personality in a few apparently effortless dashes of a pen. And these pictures were always captioned with an apposite phrase. His humour was sharp and quick but never cruel. It was also clear he was a proper academic in the way that few people are and I always imagined that he’d be a rock star one – that he’d be one of those thinkers that are never off radio 4 or BBC 2. But it’s clear that the culture doesn’t value intelligence the way that it once did. Those conversations in our first year were more stimulating – and more useful – than most of my lectures or seminars. No surprise to me that he became an expert of the uses of humour. We lost touch after Essex but I had always imagined we might meet up again one day and I have thought of him often through the years. I knew Simon was at Derby and I suppose I thought I might track him down if I found myself there for some reason. But I never did. I stumbled across this news in the most random way. And I’m gutted for Anna (who I also knew very slightly at Essex) and sorry I didn’t make more effort to say hi. Simon was a funny, sharp-witted, politically active man at 19 and it seems clear from reading these tributes that he stayed that way and that the good he did in the world – the contribution he made to our understanding of things – will be a memorial. He’s gone way too soon and it’s a fucking shame.

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