Belfast Telegraph

Modest Stephen Clements had no idea how talented he was or why people loved his radio show, says pal of tragic star


Stephen Clements with Hannah Spratt
Stephen Clements with Hannah Spratt
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

A former colleague and close friend of Stephen Clements has spoken of the modest man behind the mic who 'lifted the hearts of everyone around him'.

The 47-year-old father-of-two, one of Northern Ireland's best-known and loved voices, died suddenly earlier this week.

He hosted the hugely popular Breakfast Show on Q Radio with Cate Conway, before moving last summer to BBC Radio Ulster, a role he said was his 'dream job'.

Journalist Hannah Spratt worked with Stephen on Q Radio for six years, often reading the news bulletins on the hour during his breakfast show. She said she was 'privileged' to witness his 'magic' every morning.

"I first met Stephen back in 2014 when I joined Citybeat, now Q Radio, as a broadcast journalist," she said.

"I remember being taken aback by how shy Stephen was when we were first introduced.

"People who were fortunate enough to work closely alongside Stephen will know that until you knew him well enough, he was actually a man of few words. It was an endearing trait and something I would always joke with him about.

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"I would say to him 'Clem, there are people here to see you for an interview, try not to be so awkward when they come in'. And I would watch him squirm as they showered him with praise about how funny he was or how he always made them laugh on the school run. His cheeks would flush with embarrassment.

"For Stephen, having a huge following on Q Breakfast was always a bit of a shock.

"People would ring in to his show in their thousands each day, and it often took him by surprise. He genuinely had no idea how truly brilliant he was behind the mic. For Clem - as I always called him - it wasn't about being in the limelight, it was about making people feel better about themselves, encouraging them to live a little and have a laugh.

Stephen in the Q Radio studio with Cate Conway
Stephen in the Q Radio studio with Cate Conway

"He had this incredible ability to make people feel like they knew him personally, even if they didn't, by the way he spoke with them on air or by social media, and that is why there has been a huge outpouring of sadness following his heartbreaking passing."

Hannah said working with her friend - who was renowned across Northern Ireland for his quick wit and humour - was never, ever dull.

"There are too many hilarious memories to mention, and many we simply wouldn't be allowed to print," she added. "However, one of my favourites was when I got stuck in a lift in work a few years ago, I was trapped inside for about half an hour, and instead of offering me reassuring words of encouragement or letting me know all would be okay, Stephen videoed the whole drama from outside the lift, encouraging me to file for a claim at the end of the ordeal.

"The footage got tens of thousands of views on social media overnight and he played the audio of it out on the radio show the next day. That was typical Clem, he never missed a beat.

"Every day as I would wait to read my headlines or news bulletin, I would wait in anticipation to see what curveball Stephen would throw at me that particular day. Would it be a funny face up against the glass window as I tried to read out a hard-hitting news story? Or would it be a quip on air to catch me off-guard about the Liverpool and Man United match the night before?

"No one knew what would come out of his mouth when my mic went live. But then again, Stephen probably didn't even know until that very second, and that's what made him such a unique talent for me."

Hannah said Stephen had been a huge support to her and all the Q Radio team, revelling in their recent success at the IMRO awards.

She said he 'lifted people up and made them feel invincible'.

"In my eyes, no words will ever do Stephen justice," she added. "He was a gentle giant with the cheekiest grin. He spent his life championing local people and charities. It was never about him.

"His death has left me devastated beyond words. I've lost a true confidant and supporter. Each morning we laughed until we cried.

"It was a massive privilege for me to be able to watch him work his magic each morning. I am very, very lucky to have been able to do that.

"A listener dropped in a sympathy card to the station yesterday with the words on the front - 'how can a light that shone so brightly, ever be dimmed?' I know Clem will keep shining brightly."

A private committal service will take place in Roselawn Crematorium.

His family have asked for family flowers only, or donations in lieu to be made to the Tiny Life or PIPS Charities.

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