Henfield is mourning the loss of a ‘great champion and ambassador’ for the village who died after a short illness on Sunday December 14.
Mike Beardall was described as a person who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to highlight village causes, charities and clubs.
His career in journalism spanned the country and included spells at the Daily Mail group, the Mail on Sunday, Daily Express and Daily Star.
He was editor of County Times’ sister title the West Sussex Gazette in 1990. Gary Shipton, who succeeded him as editor and editor in chief, said: “Mike was a thoroughly decent man in every respect and hugely committed to the communities he sought to serve as a journalist. He was a pleasure to work with. He was an enormous force for good for both local journalism and supporting everything that makes this such a special place in which to work and live. He will be greatly missed.”
Gyles Culver, landlord at the White Hart pub, said: “He was just a lovely man. He was so kind and did so much for Henfield, behind the scenes stuff that people never realised.”
He said he would be ‘much missed’ in Henfield, highlighting his work with the village’s branch of the British Heart Foundation, the chamber of commerce, and the late-night shopping events.
Sheila Matthews, a Horsham district councillor for Henfield, added: “After retiring to Henfield Mike soon became a much liked and respected member of our community. He was our unofficial photographer on so many occasions ensuring a valid photographic record of events.
“His enthusiasm and professionalism helped promote Henfield in many ways over the years. He was a part of Henfield’s jigsaw that cannot be easily replaced.”
Pamela Chaston, editor of Henfield Parish Magazine, said: “Since 2009 I have been editor of Henfield Parish Magazine, the oldest magazine in the village having been published since 1887. Over the last five years Mike Beardall has not only advertised his photographic business (Oakfield Media) but has also been a valued and regular contributor with press releases, snippets of local information, (especially fundraising events for charity) and photographs galore.
“I don’t know what I would have done without his support, encouragement, articles and pictures and he became a reliable ally and a good friend.
“In May 2014 the magazine won a prestigious National Award from The Association of Church Editors (ACE) in the category ‘Appeal to a Wider Community’ and I joked with Mike that really I should share this accolade with him, as it was Mike who was largely responsible for the outreach achieved from the news on those pages of the magazine. We have a regular series entitled ‘People Profile’ highlighting those who ‘serve the local community’. Sadly Mike was never featured but it was not because of a lack of perseverance on my part. This shy, self-effacing man shunned the limelight and just got on with doing what he saw as his contribution to village life. He told me that he wanted to have a ‘low’ profile as he was already too busy to want his life to be highlighted. What a pity. Goodbye Mike. You will be greatly missed by Henfield and its Parish Magazine.”
Tony Jackson, chairman of Henfield Community Partnership, added: “Henfield Community Partnership members are deeply shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Mike. He was a great supporter of our activities, and worked tirelessly to promote Henfield’s many events and achievements. He will be greatly missed.”
Ray Osgood, chairman of Henfield Parish Council, said: “Henfield has lost a great champion and ambassador. I hope the many tributes to Mike from members of the community will help his son and daughter at this time of great sadness for them.”
Emma Osman, editor of the BN5 Magazine, added: “Mike was such a generous character and he was never happier than when he was working his craft as a journalist, helping to champion local causes, charities and clubs.
“He was a great believer in supporting the under-dog and he raised awareness of many local causes. He was passionate in his support of local businesses and knew that a healthy and vibrant high street is the heart of a thriving community.
“He gave me his time and advice when I launched BN5 magazine, 10 years ago. The value of his years in the industry gave me the help I needed and I have always been grateful to him. Over the years he has sent me countless press releases and he built a wonderful catalogue of local images which will I hope in time will become a historical tribute to a great local character who loved Henfield so dearly. I am very saddened by his passing, Henfield has lost the truest of friends; one who gave so generously and never asked for anything in return. My thoughts are with his family.”
Mike began his career as a journalist on the Banbury Guardian in Oxfordshire,before working on other Midlands titles as a reporter, feature writer and chief sub-editor. He then moved to Surrey in the 1970s becoming group chief sub-editor and later production editor of Surrey and South London Newspapers, before joining the Daily Mail group as a sub-editor on Weekend Magazine.
He worked on the launch of the Mail on Sunday, and also did sub-editing on the Sunday Express, Daily Express and the Daily Star. In 1990 he became editor of the West Sussex Gazette, and then as managing editor of Merlin Publications, launched two national business magazines. Mike then launched his own public relations business Oakfield Media in 1995.