←Back to Memories

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 was like magic. You couldn’t make someone like her up if you tried. Well, Julia herself probably could have. I was always, always pleased to see her, without fail – she brought a special charm with her wherever she went. Working with her at Live Theatre was effortless, enjoyable and fun. She made everyone around her feel important and like they counted.

I loved her plays, her characters were wonderfully eccentric, but real and human. I suppose like Julia! I am so sad today but so pleased to have known her. She was an inspiration to me and was proof to all of us that to think positively and with creativity takes courage but can be life changing. Thank you Julia.

Sarah Raad
Live Theatre

Julia taught many of us vast things. For me the lesson from Julia uppermost in my mind is the knowledge that it is possible to be ill and to die as you have lived, that individuality need not be diminished one iota. I will continue to call little children ‘Small Beauties’ and think of Julia every time I do. With love and gratitude.

Pauline Beaumont

Julia ran the first writing course that I attended when I moved to the North East about 12 years ago and has given me such encouragement – from publishing my Diamond Twig book to providing the "blurb" on my new collection, plus so much in between. Generous, funny, so talented and amazingly honest about all she was going through. I’m doing the Race for Life in May, in aid of Cancer Research and now I’ll be doing it in memory of Julia – well, more in celebration of her and the legacy she has left us all. I can just picture her wide smile at the thought of me running…..

Update: I raised £591.54 — thank you to everyone who sponsored me.

Fiona Ritchie Walker

I met Julia through her writing – first, on the page, when I read Crocodile Soup and then when I became the editor for her second novel, The Taxi Driver’s Daughter. Her novels and poetry have given me so much pleasure over the last few years. She was such great fun to be with and her writing really did reflect the sort of person she was: so funny, so full of life, so connected to the people around her, full of humanity and tenderness. Her bravery was overwhelming and inspiring. I am so sorry I won’t be working with her again, but I am so very glad to have known her.

Mary Mount

I remember so clearly that night when Julia shyly read her poems for the first time to six privileged people in her bedroom beside the Town Moor in Newcastle, and how stunned we all were by Small Beauties: "You are too small, and too beautiful to ignore". Then with Bev and Scarlet and Florrie she came to see us in Australia, twice, and there is a little room in a warehouse in Fremantle where she signed her name as she finished Crocodile Soup, and it is still there. It is her suddenly radiant smile and beautiful voice I will remember most, and her gloriously kind sense of humour and fun. She taught us all how to live and to love, and she did not deserve that shadowing over her vibrant life. She taught us all, with her light within, how to face pain and adversity with frank courage, and through her writing she carried us generously right to the verge of her precious life. Goodbye, Julia.

Bob White

Several years ago, I began a new job. Part of my job was to ‘look after’ our new Writing Fellow: Julia Darling. Julia was an easy charge; she threw herself into everything with such excitement that if Julia had an idea, it was impossible to see it as anything other than a fantastic opportunity. I’ve left the job a long way behind but Julia’s warmth, humour, creativity and generosity are still with me. Julia, for that, and for your support and encouragement: thank you, wherever you are.

Love, Joanne

Joanne Allison

A terrible loss.

Ally May

goodnight and godbless

Alison John Christopher and little Helen Dickson

Julia was a person I knew I wanted to get to know better from the night we first met, when we were both up and out there, dancing up a storm. I don’t recall there were many getting up to dance but so what, it was clear that would never stop her. A woman after my own heart, I thought. She was after everyone’s heart except she never seemed to be after hearts, just won them without trying, by being her own natural self – her talented, funny, smart, down-to-earth self. It’s beyond me how someone could stay so brave and so alive, all the way, no matter what the news. That Grim Reaper — and he’s had it in for poets of late — is a damn fool.

Eva Salzman

Julia Darling has been an inspiration to me, as she has been to so many others, in my attempts over the last few years to set pen to paper. I first came across her when she performed as a member of the Poetry Virgins and then when I went along to an early Proud Words workshop she led at Pride on Tyne about eight years ago. I love all her plays, her poems and stories and both of her published novels.

She has been an inspiration to me not only as a writer but as a member of the lesbian community in Newcastle. Her warmth, creativity, enthusiasm, generosity and love of life was unique and uniquely infectious. Her presence here as a writer and as a human being battling with cancer has made a huge impact on me which will now always be a part of who I am.

Julia wrote in January’s Mslexia that shoes in a tree can represent souls after death. No doubt I will not be alone in remembering Julia every time I walk past the ‘tree of shoes’ in Heaton Park. As the shoes have spread from tree to tree so has the effect of her spirit and imagination on those who have read her writings, attended her performances, heard her voice on radio, seen her brief appearance on TV or enjoyed the privilege of knowing her personally.

Thank you Julia for being remarkable.

Jenny Secretan.

I’d like to express my sadness and sympathy having just heard of Julia’s death. We met and spoke on a number of occasions and I’ll always remember her words and concern after the death of my daughter. She was one of the "good guys."

Ian Dowson

I only discovered Julia’s writing in the last weeks of her life, when I caught her last interview on Woman’s Hour, but as a woman living with breast cancer I want to thank her for articulating so many of my fears and frustrations with this disease and what it does to us and those we love.

Rest easy my dear you put in a great shift.

Anna Dickie

Though I only met Julia a few times, I’ve loved her work and her spirit. Her death shouldn’t have been a surprise but it still is, partly because she had been ill for so long, and partly because when you read her work, you realise that she took the fear of dying away from herself. And in doing so, all we had to do was to read those words and it went away from us a little bit too. And while we all still have those fears, and they won’t ever go away, neither will her words of hope, humour and love. I hope the tributes on here will be some small consolation to her family and to Bev.

David Price

I met Julia briefly a couple of years ago when I attended a writing workshop she was running for women in Brighton. The genuine warmth, respect and encouragement she showed towards each one of us and our writing stayed with me, and I’ve recalled it countless times when I’ve worried my writing was ‘not good enough’. Recently, I contacted Julia to invite her to speak at a conference I was organising (Lapidus – organisation for use of literary arts in personal development). Again she was warm and enthusiastic, but made it clear she might not be able to attend if her health had deteriorated. Sadly it did, and Julia was unable to come. To honour her work and her life, myself and another delegate read some of Julia’s poems at the conference, and also extracts from her weblog. Many people were moved by her words, but also somehow left feeling joyous. One person said Julia had an ‘incredible spirit’. My own feeling was Julia was full of love and light and probably continues to be so, somewhere.

Maria

A lovely woman and a lovely writer

David Napthine

I was on my first novel when I met Julia. I was embarrassed, would never tell anyone I was working on a book. My partner Ally interviewed her for the Big Issue. "You’ve got to read Crocodile Soup, it’s great," he said. "The author, she’s lovely. She wanted to know all about you."

Yes. He interviewed her, but somehow she ended up asking about his family. And our dog. She was particularly interested in our dog.

It was a few years before we met again. My book was published. I asked Julia for a quote. She must have been inundated with manuscripts from hopeful new writers, but still she read it, and gave me a lovely quote for the cover. She gave me a leg up into the world of visibility.

I carry little images with me. Julia, riding a bike. Julia, walking on the beach. Julia, going to the shops or riding in a taxi. I read her blog, and she painted these pictures in my head. Sometimes she talked about writing retreats. I felt like a little girl, nose against the sweet shop window. Writing retreats! Such things existed? Wow.

She hardly knew me at all, and yet she treated me like an old friend. I travelled up to Newcastle on my own, to see a short play of hers, set in a Turkish baths. She didn’t hesitate in asking me to join her table. She budged some chairs around, introduced me to her friends.

The last time I saw her was five weeks ago. It was Manchester Central Library, an incredible circular building, with curved rooms and a hole through the middle. The room was tall-ceilinged, wood-panelled, bathed in a golden light. I’m not being fanciful. It really was. Julia remarked on it. Something to do with the wood, I suspect. Julia read some of her poems, and I was so struck with her vibrancy, her humour, her life.

She signed a couple of poetry anthologies for me, but there was a disaster. My books got thrown away by accident.

I emailed her, not knowing how ill she was. A surprise Jiffy bag appeared, a week or two later. Two replacement books, signed by Julia. "keep on writing girl!" she wrote.

A friend of mine was undergoing chemotherapy recently when she heard Julia on the radio; Woman’s Hour. It made her feel better. She asked me to tell Julia how much she’d touched her life.

Julia’s taught me that cancer is about life, not death. That as long as there is blood in your veins there’s a reason to hold your head up, and smile at the sky.

Clare Sudbery

She sent me her book of stories. She must have popped it in the post at dawn in Newcastle, right before she flew off to Africa. I spent the next few days eating those stories like sweets.

That was July 2001 and I’d been at the proudWORDS festival, doing workshops and readings, being whizzed around the city and put up in a swanky hotel on the river. Julia met me at the station in a tie-dye tee shirt and a green hat. ‘I’m wearing my Bubble hat!’ (Bubble was one of the best characters in that year’s Big Brother.) We’d never met before, but straight away we were onto how great Primark is, and then all about the new buildings on the river. She pointed out the new bridge and the Baltic Flour Mill, covered with scaffolding. Soon it would be stuffed full of new art.

She was interested in everything and she was indefatigable. She was there at breakfast, to take me to my workshop. She dashed off to photocopy pages from a thousand and one charity shop novels, which the whole group then set about doing cut-ups with. Between us we created a vast surrealist fantasy about Jane Austen on Mars. Then we had a huge pot of tea together and talked about writing and topiary and cancer and Africa. And then there was the performance in the theatre that night: a mammoth night and a proper jamboree in which everyone got up to do their party piece. Everyone got the limelight – that was the thing. And then Julia was up with all the women in her band, all with guitars doing Marlene Dietrich songs. I remember, even then it wasn’t over — it was a night that didn’t want to be over. Before the houselights went up, the café tables went back and it was disco time. Jeremy had driven up from Manchester – he’d only just met Julia, too and the two of them were bopping round to Madonna.

It was a quick trip north — a frantic, fantastic weekend — and all of it was an event. It was like living in one big work of art.

Paul Magrs

I met Julia years ago when we were both students on an Arvon course at Lumb Bank, and though we never kept in touch, I’ve always followed her career and successes with interest and a vicarious pride. She’s been an inspiration to me for years, and I’m sure will continue to be. I’ll never forget her strength, determination, or wonderful sense of humour.

As fate would have it, I’m taking part in the Moonwalk this summer – the power walking Marathon in aid of breast cancer research – and now I know who I’m doing it for.

Much love to Julia’s family,

Anne Summerfield

Thank you

Pat Borthwick

I am so sad to learn that Julia has died. Although I only met her once, her enthusiasm and optimism were a real inspiration to me. I first came across Julia through having breast cancer myself and although she was always so busy writing and dreaming up new ideas and DOING things (let alone battling that horrid disease) she was always happy to swap emails with a complete stranger – and I am sure that I am only one of a great many aspiring writers that she had time for, even in her darkest days. I am so so proud that my first published poem is in one of her last books – The Poetry Cure, an anthology of poems edited by Julia and Cynthia Fuller. Goodbye Julia. I shall miss you.

Alison Mosquera

×