Shock at death of talented student

Martin Barker
Martin Barker

Tributes have been paid to a Scarborough drama student who was praised by university lecturers for his “radiant talent”.

Martin Barker, 20, collapsed during a night out with friends in Manchester on Saturday and died a short time later in hospital. The cause of his sudden death is not yet known.

Scores of tributes have been paid since the weekend by the student’s friends and family.

Speaking to the Scarborough News, Martin’s mum Lee Barker, chief executive of St Catherine’s Hospice, said her son was “honest, true to himself and a really genuine guy”.

She added: “Everyone has been saying he was a fantastic friend. He was like a brother to a lot of people he knew.

“As his family we have been touched and comforted by all the messages of condolence and support we have received.

“It is enormously comforting to know that all the qualities we saw in our special son have been echoed and validated by so many others.”

Martin had been studying for a degree in Performance for Live and Recorded Media at Teesside University and had been a member of Rounders at the Stephen Joseph Theatre since the age of eight.

The former Norton College and Scarborough Sixth Form College student had also been involved in the National Youth Theatre and the National Youth Film Academy.

Martin had also volunteered as a guide during the National Student Drama Festival when it was held in Scarborough.

He was looking forward to going to Germany in April as part of a drama exchange project.

His mum said: “Drama was his life. He was on his way to a first class honours degree and was leading the year group in his studies.

“He loved the theatre and everything in his life revolved around it.”

The family received a message from the Dean of the School of Arts and Media at Teesside University, which read: “He was an outstanding student, known for his diligence, his radiant talent, his sweetness of personality and his commitment to his studies.

“For a bright light like Martin to have been extinguished is for many of us amongst the saddest news we will ever receive.”

David Marshall, director of funding development at Saint Catherine’s Hospice, said: “Everyone at Saint Catherine’s has been extremely saddened by Martin’s death and our thoughts and condolences are with Lee, Paul and Phillip at this terrible time.

“As the son of our chief executive, Martin was well known to us at the hospice and well liked by everyone.

“Most recently he took part in our Strictly Learn Dancing competition, which he won, and was the life and soul of that event.

“His ever-present smile and the energy, presence and enthusiasm he brought to the competition will be my personal lasting memory of him.

“His is a tragic loss and he will be very much missed by everyone.”

Scores of tributes have also been pouring in on Facebook, with one friend saying: “You were one of a kind. Truly original, irreplaceable ... and in all honesty a little bit nuts.

“At times you were like a brother to me, giving the best possible advice and helping me with anything you could.

“A great actor on stage, a wonderful friend on a day to day basis. I’ll never forget you or the memories we all had together.

“It was a pleasure and an honour to have met someone half as special as you. Goodnight Marty - I’ll miss you forever.”

Another friend posted: “I have never known someone so kind, loyal and honest. I am so proud to call you my best friend.

“You never let anyone change you and that is something we can all learn from.

“Now you might be gone from sight and I cannot begin to explain this to myself, but no-one can take away the memories. All my love and miss you always.”

Cheryl Govan, outreach officer and Youth Theatre director at the Stephen Jospeh Theatre, said: “On a personal note, having taught, worked with, laughed and cried with Martin and his peers (on one occasion even making four of them shave their hair off for a play) for the last 13 years, I cannot express how we are all feeling.

“There are many platitudes used on these occasions and none will suffice, other than to say that when we can come to terms with what has happened there will be huge Martin shaped hole in each of our lives.”

The SJT Outreach Department would like to recognise Martin’s contribution to their work and an announcement will be made in due course.

• A celebration of Martin’s life will be held on Wednesday December 19, at 1.20pm, at Woodlands Crematorium.