From Navlika, So Bright

Navlika sent this way back in April 2014 on a card to my parents. Mum transcribed it and asked that I upload it.

So Bright

(for Emma)

Life requires death
But did it need yours
Quite so soon
Dear child
The black days abound
And bind your soul
To be racked
Yet not always so
The light did show
And was bright
So bright
Dear child
Death requires life
But did it need yours
Quite so soon.

11/10/13 N.R.

From Hattie, “Come to me for fixing”

Originally sent through to me in November 2013, somehow avoided being dealt with until now. Thank you Hattie.

Our friendship wasn’t always easy. There were times of great closeness and understanding, spontaneity and fun but times when we dissected things a bit too much. Emma was also someone who I relied on, a lot, too much perhaps. She helped me come to terms with the breakdown of my relationship and death of my former boyfriend, Lee.  During this time she was my rock and kept me going. She picked me up and gave me a lot of strength. I would have liked things to have worked out differently so I could have continued to try and do this for her.

Her friendship is typified by the google chat below:

Emma: where are you lovely?

Me: at home still in my pj’s

Emma: aw dear oh dear i wish i was!

Me: in vat of self pity

Emma: gah tough old life innit chicken? quick – get dressed, and come to me for fixing I have food cooking and a bottle of wine

Me: will cycle over in a bit, need to get a shower, thanks sweet

As well as being very supportive, Emma was vivacious and exciting. She pushed me academically and emotionally and taught me a lot about the world and how things work.  She was brilliantly intelligent – time and time again I read her thesis and hoped I could produce something of a similar standard.

I am grateful for the many things Emma gave to me, particularly for introducing me to Joe and the Keighley-now-Manchester gang. I have no doubt that her memory and the gifts she gave us will continue to live on in every one of us. As a small token I will endeavour to keep talking about her research as I did yesterday to some students I was teaching, and recount stories of Emma with dear friends.

The photo is unrelated.. but, I think it’s a nice one.

Emma and Hattie

From Mariam Attia, Always in my heart

Although the thought that Emma is no longer with us brings tears to my eyes, when memories of our time together come to mind, I smile.

I met Emma in 2007 when we were both studying for our PhDs at The University of Manchester. Soon our relationship grew into a close friendship, and we spent a lot of time mostly at Emma’s house but sometimes outdoors.

One of our special moments was the day of her viva. I remember sitting there in the examination room watching her skilfully and confidently respond to one question after the other. Her examiners were engaged throughout, and eventually agreed that she would be awarded the degree with no corrections (which is rather unusual). It was great to share that special moment of achievement with her, and I still remember the long hug in the corridor outside the examination room.

Emma was committed to changing perceptions of mental health illness especially among young people. Even when she herself had her difficult times, this remained her dream of which her research was one reflection. Before completing her PhD, Emma’s work was already reaching out to wider segments of the society as exemplified here:


Although Emma has departed us, her legacy remains. I will continue to cherish our time together, and she will always be in my heart.


From Joe Hancock, About Emma

An alternative version of this missive was a list of all the things that I can remember about Emma and our very brief time spent getting to know one another. Instead I will comment upon that (unwritten) list: it is very long, full of intrigue and detail, wonder and intensity. Colours and sounds and spaces abound. We dated for a scant few weeks, yet Emma’s charm and wisdom and authentic uniqueness branded memories on me deeper than anyone else I have known. She had a magician’s powers to make things appear.

When I met Emma I was somewhat wide-eyed at her articulate intellect – she kept it in the protrusion at the back of her skull, she said – and for a while I reeled while trying to contend with the force of her considerable mind. All of which, I might add, was a joyride!

But what is intellect without a purpose? I believe Emma understood the necessity to give purpose to her immense intellect from the very beginning of her too-short life. The purpose she chose seems appropriately summarised in part of the title of her PhD: “inclusive dialogue”. It is as testament to that notion, that method, that radical and essential concept that I write this now.

One of the things Emma explained to me was her passionate belief in the importance of overcoming the stigma of mental illness. Like many folk, I genuinely believed that I was open-minded, informed, politically savvy and so-on. What I had overlooked, though, was that I was discrediting my own self (and others) through my own acceptance of the stigma attached to something that should have mattered very much to me: depression. But this is not about me – rather, that Emma taught me, in her inimitable style, that it was the stigma that was holding me back in life rather than my illness.

Since those conversations five years ago, her words and mind-set have resonated, functioning as the single most inspiring voice in my efforts to improve my health. My eternal gratitude for this gift she gave radiates through empty space now, rather than being received by her, but I send it anyway. Thank you, Emma. You made a difference.

But right now I am sad, so fucking sad. My sadness at learning, (belatedly, since we barely kept in touch, though we did), of Emma’s death is multiplied by all those old and gnarled feelings of regret that I did not know her better. But so be it. What use regret? Still, there’s a feeling I now connote that is as unwelcome as it is poignant. And we are owed a cup of tea – so, seemingly, are a lot of people.

Also, did you know Emma was a lifetime member of the Pylon Appreciation Society?

With love.

From Patrick Jones, Equal

I knew Emma through working with her on Quaker Youth music and drama
projects and supporting her when she had periods of illness. I was only too aware
that for Emma life was both a desperate struggle as well as ecstatically wonderful.
Being of a much older generation than Emma but to be treated as a friend and equal
was very special and she just ignored all the barriers that are so easily set up
between people. I am now feeling very sad particularly for her family who have
supported her through her struggles with such courage and commitment. What a
beautiful person she was, so full of passion, energetic, bright and full of ideas.

From Joy Jones, An unusual cyclist dressed for the theatre

Like my husband Patrick I was very shaken to hear of Emma's death some time
after it had happened. Jeremy's wonderful eulogy and the powerful memories and
thoughts of so many of her friends on this site are such a tribute to her intensely
lived life. The last time we saw Emma was at the theatre just before she moved to
London to take up her RSA job - she was so excited about it! On our way to the Lowry
we'd noticed an unusual cyclist dressed for the theatre negotiating with poise and
skill the complex roundabouts in Salford, and then we found ourself sitting next to
her - it was of course Emma. Together we experienced The Life and Death of Marina
Abramovitc, Emma adding hugely to our enjoyment of the evening with her delight in
the show, her insights, and her pertinent ability to look forwards and backwards at
the same time. Since then her blogs have touched us from afar, as they have so many.
We knew Emma in quieter times too, and during one bout of her illness, and will
never forget the intense way she experienced all that life threw at her and was able
to use it to enrich the lives of others.

From Sue Devine, Singing for Larks

At Singing for Larks we move around a lot and we end up singing near to
different people during the sessions.  Emma had a really beautiful singing voice and
I felt that it was a special treat to hear her voice as we passed or stood side by
side.  In some ways she will always be there with us the songs that she loved
and in our hearts.

I only really knew Emma from Singing for Larks singing group, but I always looked
forward to seeing her there and catching up with her before singing started.  Emma
was so kind and likeable that it was easy to feel quite soon after meeting her that
she was a friend.

From Mum, Lament for Emma

When I was 8 years old, I had to memorise a poem to recite in class.  Anxiously, I searched the anthology for something that would be easy to learn. I didn’t care what it was about as long as it was short and broken into small chunks. The poem I found was ‘Break, break, break’, written by Tennyson on the death of his wife. I memorised well enough to get through the recitation with a few prompts.  In adulthood, although I remembered its rhythm and tone, I could only recall the first verse. After Emma died it kept coming into my mind, so I looked it up. In the weeks that followed my thoughts and feelings about her death began to colonise Tennyson’s structure.


Lament for Emma

Dead, dead, dead
When abruptly you ceased to be
Threads tore, and holes now gape
In the webs where you used to be

Your life was touched with fire
You could shine like the brightest star
Then engulfed by smoke from the fires of hell
Return was too rough, too steep, too far

Daughterless years lie ahead
I feel bleak as a motherless child
I look for your touch in the wind on my cheek
Your voice in the sounds of the wild

Dead, dead, dead
What’s left in life for me?
The warm embrace of those who remain
And the care of a willow tree

From Jules Akrigg, A eulogy

Jules read this at Emma’s memorial on the 30th September 2013:

I’m honoured to have been asked by Emma’s parents to say a few words today about Emma’s Oakbank days and a little about my friendship with her in general.

I met Emma nineteen years ago at Oakbank School where she did her GSCSEs and A Levels. Needless to say Emma achieved straight As at school whilst also being heavily involved in the music and drama department-she really was a remarkable student.

I’d like to tell you about how I initially became friends with Emma. She was in my GCSE French class, yet during the first term or so, we’d never really spoken. We were, in fact, from very different worlds. However, one lesson, due to my loquaciousness, Mr Bramall moved me to the desk in front of Emma’s and this was where our friendship began. It was during this lesson that Emma first spoke to me with the question: ‘did you know that the word ‘gullible’ isn’t in the Oxford English Dictionary’? I believed her for a moment- she’d probably say I believed her the whole lesson- but in my defence, she, as we all know, could be very convincing. It made us both laugh and well, it was the beginning of one of the most important friendships of my life.

In terms of school days, we worked hard-I’d say Emma worked harder- and we played hard too. We had our own corner in the sixth form common room where we’d spend hours discussing the fundamental things in life as a teenager: boys; girls; where we’d next see Tori Amos; which colour we’d dye our hair next; where we’d meet to go shopping for vintage clothing; when we could next go to Emma’s Mum and Dad’s for a cheeky smoke and….which university we’d like to go to!

Hilarity and hard work is how I’d sum up those school days with Em but there were times of anguish too. I remember when the ‘townies’ as we called them – we were the ‘grebos’ apparently – hurled homophobic abuse our way. Yet Emma being Emma was unfazed by this and induced in me a feeling of confidence and to never be ashamed of who you are.

We celebrated our A level successes by travelling to Angelsey where eight of us stayed in a cottage. Emma cycled, I remember, with a few others; she never did take the easiest way like driving in Alison Yoxhall’s comfortable car, but that’s what made Em so unique- always challenging herself.

I suppose though, and I’m sure Emma would agree, that our friendship became deeper during our twenties. Living in different parts of the UK and later different countries, we’d always find a way to spend time together. She came to Frankfurt on a couple of occasions and I visited her countless times in Manchester. And it never really mattered what we did but for those few days we’d forget our worries and woes: talking till the early hours; laughing; singing; dancing and on one random occasion having a darts competition in my apartment in Frankfurt!

I’ll end on this though. Emma was one of those people who always knew what to say to make you feel better. I loved her for that. When my Mum died earlier this year, I was feeling pretty low one day and, of course, I knew who to call. Emma advised me not to dwell on how I felt that my Mum had left this world too early and should have done so much more with her life. Instead, Em said to me, ‘she created you Jules and helped shape you into the wonderful woman you are today’.

Well Em, you’ve left this world too early and it breaks my heart but I will never forget the impact you’ve had on me- you’re an equally wonderful woman.

From Andrew Burke, Desserts and confession

I lived with Emma for a year while I did my PGCE at Bolton. I will never forget Emma’s big, smiley face as she opened the door and welcomed me inside; I phoned up a few minutes after leaving and said yes I would like to be your tenant. Emma and I would have some pretty deep conversations which were usually broken off by the sound of her phone; I guess I can’t have been that interesting. I loved her frankness, I obviously won’t go into too much detail but it was so refreshing and she’d have me in stitches telling me about her exploits. Emma made the best desserts ever and I can still taste them.

A bit too late but I feel I have to confess it was me after all who twisted the bar
on your spare bike. Sorry Emma. You are missed in this crazy world.