Your memories of Jay

Weeping silver pear tree

A Weeping Silver Pear tree will be planted at Jay’s grave in the woodland burial area at Camberwell Old Cemetery, SE22 0SQ

As Jay’s friends and I looked for a way to reflect and remember Jay, we thought we could create a shared space where we could each contribute our memories of him. We thought this would shape a really beautiful story showing the richness of Jay’s life and the many different ways in which he connected with people. In this way our shared story would be richer and more layered – and we might all learn little more about the man we were proud to call our friend.

Please feel free to add to our story chest. Write about a particular moment or day, a regular thing you did together, or simply the moment you met him. A suggested guideline is around 200 words, but it can be as short as you like – or it could be a picture or bit of audio if you prefer.

Please send your stories to storiesofjay@gmail.com

Olivia

Only a smiley face away 🙂

My overriding memory of Jay is his smile; beaming from ear to ear, always with a twinkle in his eye. We first worked together nine years ago, as researchers at the BBC, and I was immediately struck by his warmth, sensitivity, curiosity and kindness.

Over the years we’d meet up for drinks – share enthusiasms and frustrations – and I’d always return home with a smile of my own, feeling better about the world.

Looking back, Jay was always the one who made sure we kept in touch, and I took it for granted that our next catch up was a text message with a smiley face away :):). His integrity, passion, commitment to his work and his friends will always be an inspiration.

Charlotte Sacher

Where to put the table?

The big question was – where to put the table? Jay had come round to play chess. There aren’t many people I like to play chess with. Just a handful, really, the only criterion being that neither one of us always wins and with Jay that wasn’t a problem. We were well matched.

We’d met up that evening at my house to play chess and the problem was we couldn’t work out where to put the table on which we’d play. It sounds like a silly detail to start with, but I like it because it reminds me of a certain quality Jay had. He noticed the way things were in a room – among people, visually – and he wanted things to be just right before he got started. I really liked that quality. It made everyday moments more considered and somehow more lively.

Anyway, once we’d sorted out the table – we put it in the kitchen in the end – we had to get the right drinks. By then I’d got into the spirit of things and had decided the lighting wasn’t quite right, and at last we could sit down. But then we stopped to talk about things, we touched on the position he was applying for and the programme he was going to be working on soon. We talked about a moment in history and books that neither of us had ever read and exchanged stories, information, questions, all of it piling up onto the heap of the conversation – and by now his face was doing that thing. Everyone who knew Jay will remember what his face did during a conversation once he’d got into it. He was doing his animated, super-alive face, the one that urged you on and told you that whatever you were saying was fascinating, even if it was clearly not.

Only after that conversation did we get on with the chess.

We played two games. We were both concentrating so neither one of us said very much. He won the first, I won the second.

It was the first game we’d played since I’d moved into our new place just over the common from where he had started to live with Livy. Later that night, after he’d gone home, I remember thinking about what a wonderful, regular thing this was going to become in the years ahead, how it would mark the passage of time. I thought about playing chess with Jay thirty years from now, perhaps on that same table, in the same room, about how our lives would have changed and what sorts of things we’d be talking about in that catch-up before the game. I thought about all of those things that night in a happy whirl of anticipation, I cast my mind far into the future without for once thinking that so soon I’d be forced to plunge into the past.

It’s not much of a moment, my moment with Jay, it’s verging on the mundane. But I’ve always thought that this is how to get the measure of anyone. To see how they are in an ordinary moment and what they bring to it. What I loved about Jay was the extraordinary energy, the momentum and the fun he’d bring to something as throwaway, as trivial and otherwise dry as a game of chess. I really miss that about him.

Henry Hemming

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

The first time I came across Jay, I didn’t see him. Rather, I heard him.

He would come into the office of what was then the BBC World Service Trust, and I would hear him chatting to people round the corner. Regular peals of laughter would break out from him and those around him.

A few days later, he came in again. I was curious to find out more about this character, and we got talking. In Jay’s customary way, our conversation soon got onto things we were passionate about. It turned out we were both radio nerds. We started talking about our favourite documentaries and documentary-makers, excited to have found someone who spoke the same language. One day he brought in Alan Hall’s “Wise Guys.” We listened to a bit of it at my desk – and then listened to it again. And again. And a deep friendship was formed.

We started lending each other CDs with our favourite documentaries on. I played him arty, sound-based ones that I was into at the time, and Jay introduced me to the much better types of radio documentaries – the kind that he went on to make. Those with powerful characters, a compelling story, and beguiling sound.

We would have lunch together in the Bush House canteen, Jay would saunter in, his latest favourite book under his arm, and tell me in fast-paced sentences about the latest project he was working on. I’ll never forget the way his face would light up when talking about ideas or history. The “yeah yeah yeah!” when he excitedly agreed with a point you’d just made.

When I think about Jay now, that’s the image in my head – a man who had, in equal measure, curiosity, creativity and intellect. I miss him deeply.

Helena Merriman

Jay organised us all

I wanted to say that I worked with Jay on a production around five years ago. In every other production I’ve worked on, a group of people come together who then never see each other again. But on this one, Jay organised us all, and cajoled us into going out together for regular drinks. Years later, we were still going for regular reunions, with Jay at the centre. Jay had the energy and brilliance to bring people together. That is a very rare and very wonderful ability, and it will be deeply missed.

Will Yearsley

The pursuit of steak

Jay was a passionate man and a man of passions. His smile, warmth and wit meant his enthusiasms were easily shared. It was impossible not be captivated by whatever was interesting him. One particular obsession that I had the pleasure of sharing was his pursuit of the perfect steak.

There are two ways to look back on my time in Argentina with Jay. The first was that he, Olivia, Lucy and I embarked on a holiday to combine adventure, wildlife, culture and wine. The second was that he inducted us into his pursuit for the perfect steak. Jay’s natural charm meant the former morphed seamlessly into the latter and I didn’t even notice.

A familiar pattern quickly evolved. By day, we explored a fascinating country: in Buenos Aires we saw spectacular tango, Mendoza gave us wonderful wine and we drank hot chocolate that felt like liquid gold in Bariloche. By night, we roamed the restaurants.

As we settled for dinner, early conversation would be laced with expectation. Stories of meat-based nostalgia would be shared around the table. Menus would be hotly debated only to needlessly confirm that, yes, we would indeed order steak.

When the meal arrived, Jay’s verdict would set the tone for the evening. A good steak meant the night would begin with a bang: conversation would flow and another cork would be popped. A bad steak would prompt a brief period of introspection, but plans for future steaks would quickly be made and another cork would be popped. Regardless, Jay would effuse throughout.

We never did find the perfect steak. But deep down I don’t think we wanted to. After all, if we had then our quest would have had to end.

Cerys Morgan

The world is a poorer place without him

Jay recorded the sound for a piece we made on the Twic Olympics in what is now South Sudan. I can’t quite remember the date of the project, but I think it was around 2010/11. It was one of our early experiments with audio slideshows to tell stories in a different way and I think Jay delivered fabulously on the brief from us. I remember Jay smiling away as we talked about the project, happy to deal with the ambiguity that always comes with a new project and the ever-present challenges of documenting work in a developing country. I only met him a few times but his professionalism, humility and warm heart stick in my memory. The world is a poorer place without him.

Steven Buckley
Head of Communications
Christian Aid