HUNDREDS of friends, family and fans turned out to celebrate the life of much-loved author Sue Townsend at a funeral service in her home city of Leicester.
Townsend, who achieved worldwide success with the publication of The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 in 1982, died after suffering a stroke on April 10. She was 68.
Actor Stephen Mangan, who played Adrian Mole in a 2001 television adaptation of the book, was among about 500 friends, family, and fans who gathered at a funeral service open to the public at De Montfort Hall in Leicester today.
Her second husband Colin Broadway and four children Sean, Daniel, Victoria, Elizabeth were also at the service.
Writer Nicci Gerrard led the service before Townsend’s school friends, Joan Hogarth and Jean Meadowcroft, paid tribute.
Ms Gerrard told the service that Townsend’s most famous character, Adrian Mole, “spoke to millions”.
She said the writer was a “beloved and successful figure but success never went to her head”.
Townsend’s school friends from South Wigston High School Joan Hogarth and Jean Meadowcroft then paid tribute.
They told the congregation: “We loved her for her loyalty as a friend but particularly for her wicked sense of humour”.
“The last bell has rung and school is out,” they continued.
“But we guess God needed an amazing author”.
Elvis Presley’s Love Letters was then played to the congregation.
An excerpt was read from True Confessions before Sir Peter Soulsby, mayor of Leicester, paid tribute to the author on behalf of her home city.
He said Townsend was “firmly rooted in Leicester” and championed the city in her works.
“She never lost her warmth of humanity and she never deserted her city,” Sir Peter told the congregation. “Sue was very much perceived as a local treasure.”
Mangan then read an excerpt from Mr Bevan’s Dream: Why Britain Needs Its Welfare State, which Townsend wrote as a single parent in 1989.
As readers spoke during the service, pictures of Townsend were displayed on a screen behind them along with images of the front covers of some of the author’s much-loved books.
Townsend was born in Leicester in 1946, and set her most famous work in her home city.
She left school at the age of 15, married at 18 and by 23 was a single parent with three children.
After writing in secret for 20 years while employed as a factory worker, shop assistant and youth worker, she eventually joined a writers’ group at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester when she was in her 30s.
At 35 she won the Thames Playwright Award for her play Womberang and a year later published the first in her series about Adrian Mole, which she had begun writing in 1975 while living on Leicester’s Saffron Lane estate.
The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 was published in 1982 and was an instant hit, going on to sell more than 20 million copies around the world.
It was followed by The Growing Pains Of Adrian Mole in 1984 and six others in the Mole series, including The True Confessions Of Adrian Albert Mole and most recently Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, in 2009.
Since her death it has emerged that Townsend had produced “a few wonderful pages” of another book in the Adrian Mole series, according to her publisher.
Actor Tony Howes read from The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4.
Before the reading, he paid an emotional tribute to Townsend: “She was a socialist, she was an idealist and she was kind.”
After his reading, his voice broke as he said: “She changed my life.”