Farewell to a true force of nature

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My mother Marion Haywood passed away unexpectedly on the night of May 24. She had just come back from Glasgow where she and her partner Ray had been visiting me and her son-in-law Keith.

She was watching the Terminator and getting some well deserved rest; crossword in hand and a nightcap on the table. It was quick but by God it was too soon.

It could be argued Marion died as she lived – astonishingly. Coming from a working class family in Feltham, Middlesex, she was the first in her generation to pass the eleven plus, go to grammar school and from there to university. She kept her feet on the ground though; campaigning tirelessly for women’s rights and the CND in the 1970s – she tied my first pair of baby booties to the fence at Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp while heavily pregnant in 1983 and even apparently managed to get phone tapped at one point, although she assured me this was surprisingly easy to achieve in the 80s.

Marion moved from London to Sheffield to teach psychology at what was then the Sheffield Polytechnic and loved working with young people, with their big ideas and limitless dreams. 

During this time she became a published author with notable novels including Spud and the Jokers, and Rose Red, published in three countries. This love of writing led her from teaching into theatre and community arts.

In the early 90s she set up Loose Theatre, began writing for the stage and became a professional storyteller. Over the next two decades the group would perform in hundreds of locations and Marion would tell stories in many more. She had particular connections with the Off the Shelf festival and with local schools, and specialised in international folktales.

Trickster gods like Anansi and Pan and local boggats and green ladies wove themselves into her depiction of the world around us in a way that never failed to make the world more incredible. Marion was particularly proud of her promenade theatre pieces bringing Sheffield’s rich history, myths and legends alive – from her ghost walks in the general cemetery to her pieces on the infamous Charlie Peace and the Great Sheffield Flood.

Marion also wrote theatre reviews for the Sheffield Telegraph, a role she adored as she had a front-row seat - metaphorically - in seeing new talent and new ideas both originating in and visiting what became her home city. A member of the Quaker friends she was involved in a great number of charitable works in Sheffield including helping set up food banks while tirelessly campaigning against the reason for their existence. 

My mum was an extraordinary woman. An inspiration to many, and a friend to many more. She was a force of nature who lived every day both authentically and with aplomb and to say she will be missed is an incredible understatement.

Her funeral will be held next Saturday, June 17, at 11:15am at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium with a reception and celebration of her life following at the Quaker Meeting House from 12:30pm. Cut flowers to the Quaker Meeting House on the day or to Wood Funeral Service by Friday, June 16. Please wear bright colours if you are able.