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Mark Speight

Mark Speight, children’s television presenter with a particular interest in art, was found dead in London on 13 April 2008. He was 42.

The Independent comments on his early years at secondary school, after he switched from minor public school Tettenhall College to the local comprehensive, the Regis School:

“Suddenly, I was thrust into a comprehensive,” he explained. “I turned up with a briefcase and a perfect uniform and, by the end of the first day, I had had most of it stolen.” He eventually found a way to counter the bullies by becoming the class clown and responding to their taunts with humour.

The Daily Telegraph comments on SMArt, the programme which made his name back in 1994:

Launched in 1994, the show essentially built on the format devised for an earlier generation of children by the artist Tony Hart, and featured Speight and his co-presenter conducting a gallery tour of pictures sent in by children.

…One of his frequent items showed him making a small picture (often from coloured scraps of paper) and then a larger version on the floor, using carpet tiles or larger household items. Speight would switch between the two when a buzzer sounded, gurning the while, and swapping hats to indicate the picture he was working on.

The Guardian has the best summary of his effervescence on screen:

His effusive presenting style saw him bounding around the studio with trademark white-blonde spiky hair: it was Billy Idol meets the Energizer Bunny. Children would leave the sofa to start messing about with paint as soon as his show was over, and Speight was always prepared to step beyond the screen and get his hands dirty with the fans.

Commenting on his love of panto, The Times nevertheless points out:

In his case, however, this did not signify the end of a career — he was as an animated and popular presenter who was regularly nominated for industry awards as a children’s presenter and had shared in the accolade when History Busters won a Royal Television Society award in 2003. He was also president of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

Most of the newspapers skirt over the circumstances surrounding his death, but The Guardian takes a closer look at his state of mind following his fiancée’s death by misadventure in January:

in February he left SMart, saying that was unable to return to the programme following his “tragic loss”. Collins’ mother, Carmen, took him in when he could not face returning to his flat. On April 7, he had arranged to meet Carmen for lunch but failed to show up. Two policemen saw him “visibly distressed” in the street but he turned down their offer of help. The following day he was declared missing.

(Mark Warwick Fordham Speight, born 6 August 1965 in Seidson, Staffordshire, found dead 13 April 2008 in London.)