feature

Work colleagues who have organised concert in memory of a colleague at Sudbury firm who died of leukaemia.  Paul Mackman, Andrew Cross, Alli Burke and Philip Gough.  Pictured outside St Peter's Church in Sudbury. ANL-140318-093826001
Work colleagues who have organised concert in memory of a colleague at Sudbury firm who died of leukaemia. Paul Mackman, Andrew Cross, Alli Burke and Philip Gough. Pictured outside St Peter's Church in Sudbury. ANL-140318-093826001

When John Butcher died after battling leukaemia, his colleagues were devastated by the loss and heartbroken for his family.

Now those who worked with him in the Sudbury office where he was based for 20 years are set to celebrate his memory and help others fighting the same deadly disease.

Next month, friends from the Somerville group of insurance advisory companies will stage a concert at St Peter’s in the town to raise money for the UK charity Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

Not only are they organising the event, some of them are performing in it, too.

A host of local musicians are joining forces in Thank You for the Music – an afternoon of songs and tunes, old and new.

Company director John was in his mid-50s when he died last summer. He lived in north Essex with his wife, Gillian, and their two sons, Andrew and Mark.

Somerville group chairman Andrew Cross worked closely with him.

“I knew him since he joined us in 1993. He was a compassionate, kind and giving man, an intellectual, and very hard-working,” he said.

“He gave a lot of support, time and affection to those around him, so to me this event seems a way of giving something back to him.

“And he really loved music, which makes this a specially appropriate way to remember him.”

He said John had seemed to be winning the struggle against his illness. “When I saw him in June last year, he was in top form,” he said.

“But he suffered complications which led to his death. It is so sad. Devastated is the right word to describe how we all felt when he died.

“His son, Andrew, was married about a month before his father’s death, which was especially poignant.”

Yorkshire-born John remained a passionate Leeds United supporter despite having migrated south from his home county.

“But he was also a very private man. He was a real gentleman,” explained Andrew.

The fundraising concert was the brainchild of Somerville executive director – and singer – Dennis Hopwood, from Glemsford.

He is one of four acts taking part and will treat the audience to a selection of songs in his rich baritone voice.

Dennis will not be the only performer from the company, which is based at Buzzards Hall in Friars Street, Sudbury.

Executive assistant Allison Burke is a member of The Bijou Toots, a local band with a lively blend of sounds, including ukuleles, accordion and voices.

Allison, from Borley, said: “I lost my dad to leukaemia four years ago, so the cause is very dear to me, too.

“A lot of the musicians in the concert are people like me who spend their days working in offices, then have this other life playing instruments or singing.”

That is also true of another member of The Bijou Toots – rising stars of the Suffolk music scene who will soon be supporting the Ukulele Band of Great Britain at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds.

Paul Mackman’s day job is heading the Sudbury-based Mackman Group, specialists in marketing, research, PR and design.

His firm is also sponsoring the concert, along with Somerville Financial Services and the Free Press. “It’s a very worthwhile charity, and we feel it’s important to support the community,” he says.

Paul, the Toots’ double bassist, started off playing ukulele with another group and changed to the bass because they needed to give their sound more depth.

He joined The Bijou Toots 18 months ago.

“My life is pretty busy,” he says, “and playing in a band is a good way to relax because it makes you concentrate on something other than work.”

An acoustic guitar duo and a harpist will complete the line up for the concert. “It will be a really good event. We have a very diverse mix of people performing,” said Paul.

Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research is a leading UK charity working to improve the lives of patients with all types of blood cancer.