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  • The first time I met Ken Campbell, he read me the poetry of Gertrude Stein, told me I was good at my work and when I bashfully said I thought I was a bit rubbish at improvising really, he told me firstly that I’m not rubbish and it was bad to say that and secondly that he’d accept my rubbish.

    He said that maybe my rubbish was just what people wanted to see. He went on to tell me that he didn’t think the work he did with me would end my rubbish anyway, but he promised that he would stop me de-valuing it.

    And he was true to his word.

    Alternate Sunday’s I spent in Ken’s wooden home, rather like being inside a Swiss clock, with Doris the parrot in her ceiling walkways and the dogs locked up and protesting in the van outside. With a couple of fellow actors we spent afternoons, improvising, talking, drinking beer and eating large plates of sandwiches in the pub over the road from his home and learning whatever Ken had to teach. He taught me stagecraft and how to be brave, gave me the first pears off his tree, made me Rooibos tea with goats milk, chatted about life, the universe and cannibalism and inspired me to write, and none of it was ever rubbish at all.

    The last time I was at his house Ken came running impulsively out of his doorway after me as I was getting in my car and gave me a big hug and kiss and one of his Christmas ornaments, a wobbly snowman, ‘for luck’. It wasn’t Christmas of course, he just still had the ornaments up in the middle of January, and as my tree at home was still up too, I guess we were in many ways two of a kind.

    I acted for him in his Clash of the Frightened show up in Liverpool in January 2005, it was a wild ride, completely improvised in front of a live audience who repeatedly screamed for more. As terrifying as it was it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I only bumped into him a periodically after that but always fondly and with joy, he'd have a story to tell and a book to recommend. He was known as being quite cantankerous at times but he was always very good to me. The smile on his face when he spotted me was always a pleasure to see.

    I still have the snowman (and the luck) he gave me. It sits on my bookshelf next to my computer and was there, smiling and wobbling when I read the news of Ken’s death.
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