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Messages

In the weeks following Julia’s death, over 120 emails were sent to her website with memories and tributes. Just as Julia defied classification, so do these messages. We have therefore simply arranged them in the order they arrived.

Julia Darling got me work – a great teaching weekend in Newcastle, another in Turkey, some writing passes-on. Her writing is gloriously eclectic, always intelligent, insightful, compassionate, wide, deep and broad. And funny. She was a beacon of ‘keeping going’ to me after my own breast cancer diagnosis. We knew each other just a very little and emailed ever so occasionally. The Taxi Driver’s Daughter is one of the best books I’ve read.

In the morning I will go to the park and throw a pair of shoes into a tree in her honour.
with love

Stella Duffy

I wrote to Julia just after my own diagnosis of secondary breast cancer. I had come across her weblog and a piece she had written in the Guardian, My Joints are Rusty Cranes. After this we exchanged a few emails and I was inspired by her spirit and looked on her as a role model as I was desperately trying to not become a cancer ”victim”. Her emails were always encouraging and full of hope even when she was not feeling well herself.

My doctor has a book of Julia’s poems and loves them.

Thank you Julia for the emails, the humour, the hope and encouragement, you will be missed by many people who never met you but whose lives you touched.

Belinda Walker

Julia had honour and courage. She inspired me to take myself seriously with humour, to sing what I wanted to and to listen to my own inner voice even when I didn’t like what I was hearing. Her honesty, bravery and directness when we struggled with hard moments in our history together brought us to a comradeship I am profoundly grateful to have enjoyed, and my son’s life is forever richer for having had her as an ally and friend.

Katherine Zeserson

Julia, my friend, my fellow writer, you have been an inspiration. In your own words indelible, miraculous, unbelievably generous. Thank you for your joyous funny friendship, the years of courage you have offered all of us as an example, and your wonderful writing, lucid, loving, lasting.

I treasure the mug you gave me a few weeks ago, sitting in your jamas in my kitchen in Cambridge, the mug printed with your Rendezvous Cafe: Whitley Bay poem.
“I would like us to meet
where the Horlicks is sweet.”
Meanwhile I hope you ARE telling your story with a knickerbocker glory. No one could tell it better.

love
Sal.

(Sally Cline)

The wonderfully warm and encouraging writers’ meetings that Julia ran for her ‘tired academics’ at Newcastle University helped to rekindle my interest in writing. Julia also assisted me very directly by putting me in touch with an agent. I owe her a lot. It is so sad that someone who appreciated the richness of the world should be parted from it so prematurely. Although she was ill for so long, she was somehow one of the healthiest people I’ve ever met. All my love Julia, wherever you may be.

Ian Thompson

I will never forget reading the manuscript of Crocodile Soup for the first time. I had written to Julia after reading one of her short stories and months later, here was a novel. Sitting in my office, the hairs rose on my arms and I knew that this was probably the find of my literary agent’s career.

I called over to my friend, Hannah Griffiths, whose reading pile was in skyscrapers around her and begged her to read it simultaneously. I will never forget us getting together half way through, dancing around the office, knowing, knowing we were reading such an original writer: an extraordinary imagination, a beautiful sense of humour, a lightness of touch in language that defied the depth of meaning just below.

I was so proud to be her agent but I was prouder to be her friend. Her work meant a great deal to me but her friendship is what I shall forever treasure. Always welcoming, she never once let me down. I shall miss you so much, Julia.

Jane Bradish-Ellames

The question that puts Julia’s life into perspective is not how did she manage to cope with cancer, but how did cancer manage to cope with her? I knew Julia fleetingly, but mostly by association through my poet/writer wife, but we had a shared interest in palliative care, and as long as I continue to work in that field I will use Julia’s writings as an inspiration and tonic to those journeying through the valley of the shadow.

David Thomson

Julia was a founder member of Operating Theatre. It was her work concerning her cancer that originally inspired its founding. Her ideas, enthusiasm, inspiration were central to it. We shall miss her beyond measure.

Carol Clewlow, Operating Theatre

I was very sorry to hear that the writer Julia Darling died on April 13th after a long and marvelously public battle with cancer.

I first met her in the 1980’s when I was on a reading tour with the novelist Fiona Cooper. Julia welcomed us into her home as guests on that and many other occasions and I am pleased to be able to remember delightful evenings eating and drinking at her table, sleeping in a tiny bed in the children’s room, watching seals together on a cold summer’s day on the East Coast and laughing a lot. It was at Julia’s house that I got to know Darren Beckett who is now my best friend and dearest brother. What JOY!

She was a ‘true’ writer, always working, always producing new and startling work and all of us writers have lost with her parting.

TK Light

I wrote to Julia Darling recently telling her how brave and courageous and witty and talented she was and that her honest, open, wonderful writing had brought a breath of fresh air to the world of illness-wellness and all its contradictions. As someone living with HIV, I’ve looked in lots of places for space to stay well and sane and found it in my writing, my counsellor and in Julia’s writing.

I have read End several times over this morning.

It is astonishing how much less frightening the prospect of dying seems.

Susannah

I only knew Julia that little bit, but enough to know her formidable artistry, her discipline, her generosity, her wild gorgeous humour, and her strength. What a person. What a spirit.

Ali Smith

I’m so sorry to hear of Julia’s death. I first met her in spring 2001 when I took a group of sixth-formers on an Arvon Foundation writing course where Julia and Jackie Kay were the guest writers. I will never forget the warmth, generosity and humour she brought to that week. She gave so generously of her time and really helped to transform the students’ writing. My favourite memory is of us all sitting around the table pretending to be fruit and having conversations with other fruits. She was particularly struck with the idea of a menopausal grape!

About a year ago I discovered her weblog, finding it really inspiring and helpful at a time when my mum was in the last stages of cancer. I was always excited to find that she’d written a new entry, knowing that it would be fizzing with life and humour.

I will miss her, but feel so lucky to have known her, even if only briefly.

I send this with much love and good wishes towards Julia’s family and friends.

Alison Binney

Although I never met Julia by virtue of our writing genres being different, I had heard so much good about her.

From one writer to another, I salute her work, her ideas and her life.

Steve Richards

Julia encouraged me with my writing when I had no faith in it myself. She asked me to show her my poems, because she seemed to know I would never send them out otherwise, and suggested Diamond Twig. She has been a amazing influence and support to so many writers starting out, with a genuine warmth and interest in people that is unique. We all owe a lot to her. Even when she was unwell she continued to support writers. I sent her six poems, and she replied telling me to send her all 60! That’s Julia – an amazing generosity, selflessness and spirit the rest of us can only hope for.
We are all sadder she is gone, and better because she was here.

Thank you Julia, you are sadly missed but still in our thoughts,
Angela x

Angela Readman

Julia was the most generous of writers. She lavished her gifts on all of us. And those gifts seemed endless — her words, her humour, her music, her intelligence and her courage. She taught us a new way to rage against the dying of the light, a way that often involved sticking our tongues out and making rude faces. Her writing made me laugh and cry. Her presence lit up the room. Today I feel sad and angry, but also hugely grateful to have known her.

Val McDermid

I first met Julia when she taught me on a writing course – she was inspirational, witty and uncommonly kind. She encouraged me to write. I knew her only a little and met her rarely, but she always remembered me and welcomed me with the open warmth of an old, close friend. She willingly read my book (started in her workshop), and gladly wrote the ‘blurb’ with such generosity and kindness, I’m indebted to her.

She made everyone feel valued, and so many have been touched by her support. Her encouragement to others was so personal, so giving. Her life, so giving.

Linda Innes

I first met Julia in 1999 when she acted as dramaturg for my first radio play. She was patient, practical and above all kind about my poor first efforts as a playwright. As we met over the following weeks we talked more and more about the books, and movies (and drinks!) we enjoyed and I came away from these times with a richer understanding of what it meant to be a writer. Though we little more than acquaintances she never forgot me and always made an effort to ask me about my work and life whenever we met. It was never less than an absolute pleasure to talk to Julia, and the world is a much worse place for losing that heart lifting smile.

Tony Kerr

I got to know Julia last Summer when we started to work together on a 15 minute piece for the BBC1 regional current affairs programme Inside Out. This item focused on Julia’s belief that words can heal as surely as drugs and demonstrated how her poetry was helping her come to terms with her condition. She kept a video diary for the film in which she described her relationship with cancer and the impact it had on those close to her. I had only expected Julia to make a few recordings – but, in fact, Julia was so incredibly generous with her time and she made dozens of entries (along with her family) spanning several hours. Of course we could only broadcast a very small percentage of that material so I feel very privileged to have viewed all those diary entries. The power of Julia’s words, her incredible wisdom, energy of thought and courage shone through in everything she said – both on and off camera. She was one of the most remarkable and open people I have ever met.

Andrew Hartley
Producer Inside Out, BBC North East and Cumbria

There have been many opportunities to thank and celebrate Julia for particular projects and her contribution to the arts in the region. However it is not until someone like Julia leaves the arts community that you realise just how important the contribution has been. Quite apart from Julia’s plays, novels and poetry, her work in education, health and support for fellow writers has been an inspiration to so many in the region. Julia will be sadly missed but her legacy of work will continue to inspire others for many years to come.

Andrew Dixon
Executive Director, Arts Council England, North East

I had only recently got back in touch with Julia after nearly 30 years, (we knew each other in Brighton in the mid/late 1970s), I emailed her and got such a kind and friendly reply when I enquired after another long lost friend we both knew. It was during the broadcasting of Appointments on Radio 4 in February and I had heard her brave and touching interview on Woman’s Hour, I’d come across her work, but had not realised what a champion of writing & poetry she was until I read her weblog, her work was wonderful and will continue to inspire.

Isobel Golt Morris

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