We remember a man who “never fully believed the impact he had on so many people”

PUBLISHED: 08:22 23 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:45 23 January 2020

2014. Graham was described by many as a very kind and generous soul. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

2014. Graham was described by many as a very kind and generous soul. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

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He was “selfless, energetic, creative, passionate and inspirational”. These are just some of the qualities people will remember of Graham Harding, a man who was loved by many in Saffron Walden.

2005. Graham Harding helped hundreds of students experience nature through trips primarily in the Yorkshire area. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.2005. Graham Harding helped hundreds of students experience nature through trips primarily in the Yorkshire area. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Graham, who grew up in Saffron Walden and was known in the town, had a huge impact on a lot of people in "a whole variety of communities" according his family.

Carly, his daughter, said: "The saddest news for us has sparked some heart-warming memories for many, which have been a comfort for us to see and hear.

"He lit up entire marquees and packed venues, never mind a room!

"He was a truly incredible man. His legacy and our memories will live on."

Graham loved outdoor trips and activities. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.Graham loved outdoor trips and activities. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

His passion for music was contagious. A regular of the Glastonbury Festival, he called it "his spiritual home". One of his most famous ventures was his record shop in the 80s, which started out as a market stall, still remembered by people in the town.

His wife Steph described the excitement of turning up to the market each Saturday to see if they would get a spot for their stall: "Wooden boxes would be unloaded, full of 7 inch and 12 inch singles, albums, or band T-shirts.

"We had found a good European supplier of vinyl, so we could offer chart albums at £2.99, rather than Chew & Osborne (record shop) prices."

Graham and Steph found themselves rushing back on the motorway from Friday gigs just to get a pitch for the market - and this is how their first official Roadshow Records shop came about.

Graham during a geography trip with Newport students in Brinham in 2006. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.Graham during a geography trip with Newport students in Brinham in 2006. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Mums in pushchairs and chattering school children were visiting the very hot and steamy Limetree Court-based shop in summer - prompting the business to move to 7 Market Walk until its closure in 1996.

Despite spending long nights painting the shop in its iconic green and orange colours, Graham still made time for sport across the year.

"Footy in winter, cricket in summer. How many hours are there in a day anyway?" Steph said.

Carly said it was his energy and creativity that inspired her to pursue her career in events and marketing, and gave her the opportunity to work on international conferences and events with him, having cheered by her dad's side throughout the past decade at Glastonbury festivals. Graham used his ideas in a range of fields - from architecture, print and design work, to music and events.

Graham paddling on River Lark in 2009. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.Graham paddling on River Lark in 2009. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

"Graham's technical skills and imagination created strong, original themes and ideas. The mascots he created for the Saffron Walden Carnival during the 80s and 90s were reproduced throughout carnival programmes and events," Steph remembers.

He was indeed a very active person, as Old Newportonian Society members recall since they met Graham at the Newport Free Grammar School, now the Joyce Frankland Academy.

Graham started helping with the Duke of Edinburgh Award and, together with Rick Reynolds and Ian Roper, who became his friends, he helped Newport students with many outdoor pursuits.

Field trips to Derbyshire, Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District and kayak trips on local rivers knew Graham's steps and felt Graham's strength.

Graham looked after dozens of students at a time, who would have not otherwise been able to explore nature in a similar way. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.Graham looked after dozens of students at a time, who would have not otherwise been able to explore nature in a similar way. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Rick Reynolds, 65, said: "My best memories with him are basically walking together. Going up hills. Sleeping outdoors or in places like hostels or tents. We have done loads of things in the outdoors. He was supervising all these students who would get outdoors and otherwise wouldn't. We would have a good time around the stove and maybe have a beer.

"Graham was one of the kindest people I have ever met. He was so caring about everybody, friends, his children, a kind partner. He got on well with almost anybody.

"If I thought he could help with anything, I would ask him."

Saffron Walden-based Ian Roper, 73, previously a geography and geology teacher from the school, had a big surprise organised by Graham on his retirement trip: "When I arrived back at the camp, all the team was wearing T-shirts emblazoned with my photo and a suitable pithy analysis of my career".

Ian Roper (left) and Graham (right) paddling on River Lark in 2009. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.Ian Roper (left) and Graham (right) paddling on River Lark in 2009. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

A few of the many tributes to Graham Harding that you have sent to us or expressed publicly.

Bob Fallaize: "I might have only been a youngster of 14, but he and Steph Grace let me work on the market stall and then on to the two shop premises.

"I was also allowed to initially help out and then start the discos for Roadshow.

Graham Harding in Hope, West of Sheffield, in 2007. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.Graham Harding in Hope, West of Sheffield, in 2007. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

"My most fondly remembered time was a gig at the Bell college [a language college on South Road, Saffron Walden], pack up, travel to Bath University, set up the disco, a wander round Bath, do the gig at the university, pack up, travel back to Walden, a few hours kip, set up the market stall, work all day, pack up the stall, set up the disco in the town hall, do the gig, pack up and then bed.

"They both ignited my interest in music. I knew Graham for 40 years."

Cogs Greenhow said Graham helped with a ball at Saffron Walden Town Hall on December 22, 1988.

A poster for the event read: "Dancing to the Graham Harding Lazer Disco".

But Graham's help didn't stop there in Cogs' memories, as he also had an input in Cogs' 18th birthday the year after.

"He was a good man," Cogs said.

Helen Lightning: "We will all so miss his generous heart, his kind nature and his cheery wit.

"On my own cancer journey he understood the black places, the hard times, and helped me through.

"He is irreplaceable in my life. Rest in peace friend, many hearts are breaking at your leaving us."

Andrew Bartram: "Graham did the disco at our wedding in 1981. Going on to become the best disco around. Lovely bloke."

3D Events Productions: "An inspiration to so many people, a true personality that always looked most at home with a mic in his hand!"

Julie Pearce: "What an incredible man. I first met him when I was in Rotaract in the early 1980s.

"He had amazing energy and enthusiasm for life. The disco that he and Steph ran together was the backdrop to my social life at this time."

Graham passed away on January 6. He left behind children Carly, Caitlin and Christopher, a grandchild, partner Debbie and wife Steph. A private funeral, followed by a celebration of his life, was held on Tuesday, January 21.

In Graham's memory, the family are welcoming charitable donations. Find out more at www.peasgoodandskeates.co.uk/donate-in-memory/.


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