Tributes paid to much-loved journalist and inspirational DMU lecturer


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This tribute to Andy Plaice, the Journalism lecturer who sadly died last week, was written by DMU Journalism student Kyran Kennedy for Leicestershire Press

Friends, colleagues and students have paid tribute to an “amazing, funny and kind” journalism lecturer at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) who has died at the age of 54 after a 10-month battle with brain cancer.

 Andy Plaice died with his loving wife Maria and close family by his side, at the Cransley Hospice in Kettering on Monday last week (February 18).

Andy-Plaice2
Andy Plaice, Journalism lecturer

He had been diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, glioma blastoma, in March 2019.

Over the course of his long journalistic career, Andy edited a number of newspapers including the Melton Times, leaving a lasting impact on those he worked with.

As a feature writer and reviewer his work was published in a wide range of titles including the Times, the Sunday Express, the Stage, the Daily Express, the British Theatre Guide, the British Comedy Guide and the Voice. He combined his love of theatre and journalism in a textbook for aspiring critics titled Arts Reviewing: A Practical Guide, which was published in 2017.

Andy began his journalistic career at the Grantham Journal as a reporter in 1988, after initially working as a drama teacher at Grantham College. He rose quickly to the role of deputy editor, before becoming editor of the Melton Times in 1992, where he spent 13 years, and then managing editor of the Rutland Times.

He made the switch to teaching in 2006, taking up a position as a lecturer at DMU, where he helped many students launch their own careers as journalists.

Tor Clark, a colleague of Andy’s at both the Welland Valley Newspaper group and DMU, paid tribute to his friend. Now an associate professor of journalism at the University of Leicester, Tor said: “Andy was an excellent all-rounder, and particularly enjoyed teaching news writing to first year students. His passion was cultural journalism, so his greatest pleasure at DMU was developing and then teaching his module, arts and entertainment journalism, which encouraged many DMU Journalism students to explore that field with huge enjoyment.

“But the key thing to remember with Andy is not only was he an excellent journalist and lecturer, beyond that and more important than that, he was just an amazing man – funny, kind, sympathetic, genuine. He was a pleasure to spend time with in or out of work.”

Melton Times reporter Nick Rennie said Andy’s death was “a huge shock.” He said: “I remember when Andy took over, he was one of the youngest newspaper editors in the country.

“I was around the same age as him and he confided in me that it was a difficult job managing people who were older and much more experienced than him.

“But Andy quickly showed that he had the strength of character and the journalistic nous to thrive in the job.

“I also worked with him at the Rutland Times in his last newspaper job and always enjoyed spending time with him, in and out of work.

“His loss is a huge shock to us all and my heart goes out to his wife Maria and the family.”

DMU journalism lecturer Brian Dodds, who worked with Andy for 20 years, said: “When I first became an editor, with Andy already in that role at a neighbouring paper in our group, I immediately realised he was someone I could learn a huge amount from.

“He was an excellent local newspaper editor, caring and passionate for the community he served, while warm and supportive to his team.

“But what I think I was most impressed with was the gentle yet firm and intelligent way he always approached the often complex matters thrown at the role.

“He carried that warmth and intelligence through into his career as a university lecturer, where again I arrived in a new job with him quietly offering valuable guidance. He was a lovely fellow and we really miss him.”

James Russell, head of the Leicester Media School at DMU, said: “Andy was extraordinarily dedicated to his students and to his work training journalists, but he was also a warm, engaging and enthusiastic person, and that, as much as anything, is what made him a great teacher and a great colleague.

“I do know that he had an impact on the lives of hundreds of students, and so he has a great legacy from his time at DMU, but I think his loss is deeply sad for us as his colleagues, for his students and for his family.”

DMU press officer Sian Brewis, who started her journalism career under Andy’s guidance, said: “He believed in local news and knew that being a journalist was the best job in the world. As an editor he’d be pushing you to get the great stories but he’d never let you forget the people affected by them.

“That’s because he cared about the communities he wrote about. He made my first few years as a trainee journalist the best. I owe him so much.”

A number of Andy’s former students also paid tribute to their “incredible teacher.”

Chloe Hewitt said: “It was an absolute pleasure to have been taught by him. Truly heart-breaking news, so much love to his loved ones.”

Tyler Arthur said: “His enthusiasm and genuine excitement for the topic he taught was rare and tangible. Rest in peace.”

Daniel Siggins said: “Andy had a great sense of humour and a natural passion he instilled in his students. He will be missed.”

Oliver Payne said: “Andy was an incredible teacher, introducing me to the creative side of journalism and how to write a blinding feature. His lessons were a fun yet professional environment and I’ll take what he taught me then and use those skills throughout my life, I’m sure. He will be missed.”

Andy's widow Maria has set up a JustGiving fundraising page aiming to raise £1,325 in tribute to him, with proceeds to go to the Cransley Hospice which cared for him in his final days. The page hit £460 within a day of being set up. To donate click here.

Posted on Wednesday 26th February 2020

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