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Former daily deputy editor and theatre critic dies aged 73

thumbnail_daviduptonA former deputy editor of a regional daily who was also a theatre critic for regional and national titles has died aged 73.

David Upton, pictured, was deputy editor of the Blackpool Gazette until 2000 before moving to the Lancashire Evening Post, where he was assistant editor until retiring in 2010.

A theatre critic throughout his career, he continued writing reviews after his retirement and was still filing copy up to a few weeks ago.

David had been diagnosed with a form of leukaemia in 2015 and died while pursuing treatment for a bone marrow transplant.

Born in Liverpool in 1950, David began his journalistic career at the Altrincham Guardian and joined The Gazette as one of its youngest chief sub-editors after spells with the Stoke Sentinel and Oldham Evening Chronicle.

Colleague and former Gazette tourism writer Craig Fleming said: “David was one of the first people to hold out his hand in welcome when I stepped into what was then The Gazette’s Victoria Street office more than 50 years ago.

“He was one of the calmest colleagues I had the pleasure to work with, always ready to share his experience with newcomers and, in every way, a well-liked team player with a wonderful dry sense of humour.”

Another former colleague, Roy Edmonds, said: “He was a big, quiet person in every sense; one who naturally drew respect but was quite unassuming; a highly talented editor and designer but, above all, a gentle and caring man of wide interests and delightful wit.”

Along with fellow theatre critics, David was a driving force in establishing The Manchester Theatre Awards in 2011 and also worked briefly as a lecturer on the drama degree course at Blackpool and The Fylde College.

He spent the Covid-19 lockdown researching and writing a book on the Blackpool Gazette’s news coverage during the Second World War.

Lancashire Post and Blackpool Gazette print editor Mike Hill said: “As well as overseeing the features department David looked after the all important liaison with our commercial team, a relationship which can sometimes require the sort of calm and even handed diplomacy skills he was gifted with in abundance.

“After retiring David kept a hand in right up until recent weeks, providing previews of shows coming up at the region’s theatres and regularly writing reviews of performances.

“His writing was always authoritative, measured and delivered in a style which would engage arts lovers and casual readers alike.

“Importantly for a reviewer on a local paper, it was also kind. If a show wasn’t up to scratch he would find a way to let a reader know without being unnecessarily critical.

“Since we learned of David’s passing it has been notable that one word keeps coming up in the many tributes paid to him by colleagues past and present and that word is gentleman.

“David was a gentleman and was always so supportive of his fellow journalists, as one ex-reporter said: ‘David was the wise old owl of the LEP and Gazette. I loved working with him because he was such a calming influence in a mad newsroom. We lost a lot when he retired.'”

David is survived by his wife and best friend Jane, children Lisa, Jamie and Katie, their partners Andrew, Julia and Tom, and granddaughters Megan and Hazel.

His funeral will take place on Friday 1st December, followed by a Celebration of Life for friends and colleagues at Vicarage Park Community Centre in Poulton from 2 to 4pm.