Ian Noble Tribute
  • Josh Brown Funeral Eulogy
  • Dancing for Ian
    “the last cigarettes are smoked, the loaves are sliced,

    and lest this be taken for wry sorrow,

    drown the spider in wine.

    you are much more than simply dead: 

    I am a dish for your ashes,
    I am a fist for your vanished air.

    the most terrible thing about life
    is finding it gone”

    When words falter, just look around. That so many people have come to remember Ian says all that is needed.

    Some days after Ian died I was walking in Southsea and there was this old Rasta, he was shaking his graying dreads, doing a little dance to some Redemption Song inside his head and offending  the nice shoppers coming out of Waitrose. I thought Mister Noble would have had something to say about that, would probably have joined in. So Ian’s memory threw down the gauntlet and I did a little dance with the Rastaman.

    Big in so many ways, Ian was a great teddy bear of a man - Clever, Warm, Modest, Funny and, in everything, Generous. Also irascible, stubborn, vulgar and cantankerous.

    Much has already been written about his uniqueness as an academic and teacher. The combination of brilliance in and passion for design coupled with his generosity of spirit and undying wit was a flawless recipe for an inspiring educator who would, and did, change lives.  Ian knew, as too few of those who command the profession do, that what is serious and important needs to be tempered by irreverence. “Make mistakes. Be prepared to fuck up” – it’s great advice!

    But some of us were lucky to know Ian as a close friend.

    Unlike most people who achieve academic and professional success, Ian stayed true to his roots. He never turned his back on his past, remained true to family and friends and was as happy on the terraces at Pompey or entertaining old ladies with ribald stories in a back street pub as he was impressing international symposia.

    He hated meanness simply because it was alien to him. The first man at the bar and likely to blow a months groceries on champagne if the occasion justified it.

    Ian was generous in the best possible way, he gave himself. For me it was -

    Some new and unusual music. Crackers Cajun version of White Riot is still a favourite.

    Passing forward books he’d read. Ian reacquainted me with the Beat poet Charles Bukowski whose words I began with. Another irascible old bugger and bigger than life, driven by the same vision as Ian. I’ve found much solace in his poetry.

    Ian shared words, images, ideas – anything he found delight in he’d pass on. Recently he told me “I’ve been using this wonderful word – “Flaneur”. A flaneur is a well dressed man-about-town who relishes blending with the crowd in theatres and cafes”. And then, that casual generosity, “I think it suits you perfectly” he said. I was flattered especially as, the truth is, it was perfect for Ian with his velvet collar, neatly positioned handkerchief, RayBans and the trade mark hand-made brogues. Face it, the man had style!

    No one was excluded from the things that drove Ian. He could engage you in a discussion that left you feeling wondrously clever because he’d made some complex, esoteric subject approachable and interesting. Bukowski again – “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.”

    Then there was that fabulous, uncompromising wit. No time spent with him was going to be routine. Ian distributed the munificence of laughter – sharp as a cut throat attacking the meanness of life and pricking the pompous.  Nothing and none of us was exempt including, inevitably, Ian himself.

    And driving everything he did and was, was the loyalty to friends and family, the devotion for his mother, his sister and brothers, his adoration for Audra and Eugene and the towering, unfailing love for Susan.

    So, I have the privilege to speak on behalf of us all and say – Ian Noble was my very, very dear friend and I loved him.  This world is more dismal for his passing but we are better for knowing him and his memory will always be dressed in laughter. So I want you to make yourself a promise. At some point in the not too distant future, when the pain has subsided, in whatever way you choose but at a time and in a place most would deem absolutely inappropriate, if only inside your head, do a little dance for Ian. 

    Josh Brown, funeral oration for Ian Noble, 20th February 2013