Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Clements was a 'joy bringer', says devastated William Crawley

Colleague: William Crawley
Colleague: William Crawley

By David O'Dornan

William Crawley has paid a heartfelt tribute to his tragic BBC Radio Ulster colleague Stephen Clements after his "devastating" sudden death.

The Talkback presenter revealed how Stephen asked him for advice before starting his dream job at Broadcasting House in Belfast, adding that his friend was set for bigger things at the corporation.

It was a "great tragedy" that he would not fulfil those ambitions, he said.

The 47-year-old's death has left colleagues and listeners stunned. Stephen, a married father-of-two, joined Radio Ulster last summer, having been the long-time presenter of Q Radio's breakfast show.

Stephen Clements with his wife Natasha and their children Poppy and Robbie
Stephen Clements with his wife Natasha and their children Poppy and Robbie
Dream job: DJ Stephen Clements with his son Robbie
Beach life: Stephen Clements, with his daughter Poppy, has fond memories of Barry’s in Portrush
Leading man: Stephen Clements taking part in The Royal Does Strictly with Brenda Creaney of the Belfast Trust in 2012
Sunday Life News brenda shankey, eamonn holmes, Q Radio Stephen Clements and Cate Conway recording the Christmas Special. Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life 19-12-2015
Stephen Clements is set to present his own show on BBC Radio Ulster
Dream job: Stephen gets settled in
Stephen with wife Natasha
The RUA’s Annual Exhibition takes place at the award-winning Ulster Museum.
Great cause: Stephen Clements with Children in Need’s Pudsey
Stephen Clements with wife Natasha and children Poppy and Robbie
BBC Children in Need are presenters Holly Hamilton and Stephen Clements with Pudsey Bear.
Twitter postings: Stephen Clements
The BBC NI studio with presenters Stephen Clements and Holly Hamilton

Yesterday both stations paid emotional tributes during the shows he fronted.

And speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, William Crawley said he was struggling to take in the news.

He recalled how he got to know Stephen through listening to his show on Q Radio, adding: "We began texting back and forth compliments and things like that.

"When he got the job replacing Sean Coyle I phoned him and we had a good old chat. And then as he came into the building as a new colleague, I first met him when he got out of a lift, and we had communicated so much we naturally both hugged each other.

"That was quite amazing. He was a very easy guy to get to know very quickly and he was just a big smile and a bundle of energy - he was a joy bringer on the radio and when you met him in person as well.

"He was a hugger. He was tactile, natural and I think he connected with people on the radio for the same reason, that was part of his DNA.

"He was just a natural connector with people. I don't know how to process all of this, it's too crazy. It's beyond me. I mean, the last text I had with him, we were arranging to get together for lunch with 'definitely' in capitals.

"Then you hear that news and you're just wondering, 'God, what the hell?' It's devastating."

William is currently overseas on holiday but has been texting and calling colleagues who worked closely with Stephen at the BBC.

He said there was a synergy between them in terms of having a previous life before broadcasting and also taking over from a more established presenter.

Stephen held down a range of jobs before finding his feet on air in his 30s, while William was a lecturer and a minister before his BBC career and working his way up to replace Wendy Austin in the Talkback hotseat.

He said: "There was (a synergy) and we talked about that quite a bit, I shared some of my experiences, and you know how it is - you get people who will text in criticisms or tweet criticisms and others will love you or maybe you've just got to earn your place.

"He was a very thin-skinned kind of guy and I was telling him that's just the way of it, that's natural, that's just the way with all broadcasting and you've got to make your way through that.

"And so mostly we were talking about what it's like just to kind of ease your way into this new world, working in the BBC and that sort of thing, and dealing with the fact that you're replacing somebody and you've got to create your own space and I've been there too, and we've all been there.

"It can be difficult, it can be challenging but it still has to happen.

"We'd meet for coffee from time to time in the canteen and he was just lovely. He was just genuine. Absolutely transparently genuine.

"He was almost like an innocent abroad for someone who always said he got into broadcasting later, but he had quite a big pedigree already and he was sort of wide-eyed about all the possibilities.

"And the great shame is that I know that next year there would be a lot more happening with him with television and radio and even beyond the show and that's a great sadness and that's a great tragedy."

William said that, before switching from Q to the BBC, Stephen had turned to him for some guidance ahead of launching his show, which preceded his in the weekday schedule.

He said: "He asked me for a bit of advice going in and I said, 'Look, the first couple of months are just finding out where the studio is, don't worry about it. Just do your thing and remember the reason you have this job is that these bosses know what you can do, and they don't want you to be anything else other than the person they thought they were hiring. So the best advice I can give you,' I said to him, 'Is just be yourself and don't worry about anything going around you, there will be a lot of new stuff, new buildings, new people - but your voice needs to be you, don't let anybody else take that from you.'"

William said that while he and colleagues at BBC Northern Ireland will be reeling in the wake of Stephen's death, they will rally round and support one another.

"You've got a responsibility to keep that strong voice and try to do justice to someone you knew and this was true with Gerry Anderson and others we've lost over the years," he said.

"It's a bit of a family. The BBC can be a bit of a dysfunctional family at times, but it's a family nonetheless.

"You see people everyday, you walk past people every day or you meet them for coffee in the canteen and you make some friends, you don't make others, and I was very clearly making a friendship with Stephen.

"It was early days but he was an easy person to become a friend to and you can see that with the wave of responses, people saying very similar things about how connected he was to people, how he wanted to get involved, how he wanted to do something for other people.

"He was just genuinely a decent person."

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