In Memory of Stephen Gale
Stood on the Shrewsbury to Birmingham train, I am haphazardly scrolling through Instagram.
My umbrage at our crumbling infrastructure is lightened when I get to the astrophysicist Lisa Harvey Smith’s account and see a photograph of her with Stephen Gale, one of the friendliest and most positive people I have met. This lightness of mood is quickly scotched when I read the words Lisa has written beneath. Stephen while flying a jet over the sea, there was an in air collision and Stephen, and his companion James Rose, are currently considered lost at sea.
Stephen loved flying and was keen to infect everyone else he met with this passion.
I first met him during an Australian tour with Brian Cox. I think it was at the meet and greets that used to happen after the show where, if the small audience were very lucky, Brian would knock out a few tunes on the piano. He was keen to take us up in a jet which sadly was never possible due to Brian’s tour insurance and my well-practised cowardice.
We stayed in contact and I would see him more often than not when I was in Australia. Stephen was a very encouraging individual, if he liked something then he would do anything he could to help. He was a relentless supporter of science communication and also of the Book Shambles podcast. One generous contribution made him eligible to be a guest on Book Shambles and we recorded a sort of episode of it when he was in the UK and came to a show I was performing in Cambridge. He never wanted it broadcast, he had just given us the donation because he wanted our podcast to exist.
When he arrived at the venue he had bought both Trent and me gifts. I received a fine vinyl copy of Diamond Dogs and Trent received The Alan Parsons Project’s exploration of Edgar Allan Poe. We are very fortunate to have so many lovely supporters (not necessarily financial) who are always encouraging and excited however eccentric our ideas may be. Stephen was a great example of this and someone always eager to encourage the sharing of scientific ideas and passionate curiosity. The world always needs enthusiasts and I am very sorry that we have lost one today. – Robin Ince
When we first announced that Shambles was going to set up a Patreon, Stephen was one of the first people to sign up. It is with incredible sadness with today’s news, that as I look at the current list of subscribers, his name still appears.
As Robin as has said he was passionate about ideas, science and, above all, flying.
He was filming as part of a pet project TV series about flying when this awful accident occurred. I knew the project well. He had emailed and messaged me about on many occasions just wanting to pick my brain about how to get a TV project off the ground and if there were any companies and producers in Australia I knew that might be interested. I put him in touch with a few people, read through some proposals and offered what help and feedback I could. He had always been so supportive of Shambles I was more than happy to return the favour.
Much like Robin I was sadly unable to go up in his fighter jet for a joyride because there its not enough anti anxiety medication in the world.
But above all, Stephen always seemed such a good and kind man. I recall once he messaged me to ask what date tickets for Nine Lessons were going on sale one year as he was going to fly over with his family to come to one of the shows as he’d always wanted to come to one. I mentioned that if he was willing to pay for multiple airfares from Australia to London to see our show I reckoned we could sort out a few comps. He insisted on paying.
At a time when curiosity and a desire for knowledge, and to share it, can seem in all too short supply, for the world lose a person like Stephen Gale is a mighty blow. Everyone at Shambles sends their love and thoughts to Stephen’s friends and family – Trent Burton
Robin Ince is a multi-award winning comedian, writer and broadcaster. As well as spending decades as one the UK’s most respected stand-ups, Robin is perhaps best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage radio show with Prof Brian Cox. For his work on projects like Cosmic Shambles he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Royal Holloway, University of London. His latest books are The Importance of Being Interested and Bibliomaniac.