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Sunday, 05 July 2015

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Carlisle lecturer Darren Connor was an inspiration

Loved ones, friends and former students of a Carlisle-born cinema campaigner and university lecturer say he was an influential inspiration who will never be forgotten.

Darren Connor photo
Darren Connor

Darren Connor died suddenly after collapsing while taking part in a charity bike ride at the weekend. He was aged just 40.

He taught film and TV at the University of Cumbria’s Brampton Road campus in Carlisle and had been a leading light in the campaign to save Carlisle’s former Lonsdale cinema from closure.

Tributes to him have poured in throughout this week, many on social networking website Facebook and at www.cumberlandnews.co.uk.

One of those to pay her respects online was Carlisle businesswoman Saj Ghafoor, who was shocked by the news.

She said: “His passion for films was well known and he did whatever he could to nurture young minds and understand the power of films.

“He will be missed. What a sad loss of someone so young. Deepest sympathies to all his loved ones.”

Former student Sam Tristram said he could not believe Mr Connor had died.

“He was the most influential teacher I’ve ever had and was regarded as a friend. He was there for me through everything. He will be missed by all that met him,” he wrote.

Another former student Paul Tebbutt, added: “After thinking of leaving my course, Darren was the reason I completed my film studies degree in 2005.

“He was clever, funny and genuine man and will be greatly missed by all those who knew him. He understood the concerns of his students and empathised with them, which made him the great tutor he was.”

Chris Davidson said he had a zest for life and lived every minute to the full.

“I am sure there will never be another like him,” he continued. What a sad loss for his family and for everyone in Carlisle and Dumfries and Galloway who were lucky enough to have known him.”

Mr Connor was taking part in the cycle ride near Lockerbie, where he lived, when he collapsed.

In a moving tribute, his partner Claire Hunter, 44, described him as “fantastic”.

She said: “I just hope he realised how much people thought of him.

“I can’t think of anyone that Darren would have been negative about. I don’t think he met anybody who he didn’t get on with. Teaching film was his job, and he felt so grateful to be able to do a job that was also his passion.

“When he got into [higher] education, it was a bonus for him. He would have done anything for his students.”

Mr Connor’s love of cinema had been nurtured by his postman father Mike during regular trips to the cinema during his childhood in Carlisle. That interest eventually gave him his career.

He eventually moved from Carlisle to Lockerbie with Claire, his partner for 11 years, becoming a devoted stepdad to her three children – Lewis, 18, Elliot, 21, and Neill, 22 – who are also devastated by his death.

As well as his professional university work, which saw him become a staff director on its board, he also ran a weekly film class at the Robert Burns Centre in Dumfries.

Edna Croft, who led the campaign to save the Lonsdale, also paid tribute to Mr Connor, saying: “He was an extremely nice young man: a decent young man, doing a jolly good job at the University of Cumbria, and someone who cared about public facilities.”

Colleagues at the University of Cumbria were saddened by the news.

Previously a student at the Cumbria Institute of the Arts, on Brampton Road, he began teaching there in 1999, taking on additional roles both professionally and personally.

Vice-chancellor Professor Graham Upton said: “Our thoughts at this time are with the family and friends of Mr Connor. He will be sadly missed.”

Mr Connor will be laid to rest in a woodland burial after a service at Carlisle Crematorium, which will be at 1pm on Wednesday. Money collected at the service will be divided between four charities: the World Wildlife Fund, Cancer Research, Oxfam, and Children First, for whom Mr Connor was raising money while riding on Sunday.

Have your say

This is so sad. I've only just found out about Darren and I feel very upset. I first met Darren in 1991 in Kilburn, North London, at a Morrissey concert. We spent quite a bit of time together traveling round the country watching various bands, but mostly Morrissey, over the years. He was a great friend and I was sad that we drifted apart gradually. But then happily by chance I bumped into him and his partner Claire in Old Street Tube station about five years ago. And I'm so glad I did. He looked so happy and content and I was very pleased for him. This is a terrible loss. He was so young and clearly had a lot more left to give. He obviously touched a lot of people and I feel very sorry for their loss.

Posted by Claire Billings on 7 June 2012 at 22:07

When I heard the news I couldnt believe it, its not just the loss of a friend, it's the loss of a great friend and all round individual who touched so many people with his life, and was open a passionate about the things he cared about. Although I had not seen him in nearly 10 years when we did bump into each other we always had a good chat. An everytime i hear the Smiths or Morrisey I always thought of him as he tried to convert me... Your gonna be a big miss Darren.

Posted by Simon Mcleod on 29 June 2011 at 20:48

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