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Moving tributes paid to 'inspirational' Norwich author

PUBLISHED: 22:52 18 July 2011

Author Stephen Foster pictured at UEA

Author Stephen Foster pictured at UEA

Archant © 2007

Moving tributes have been paid to a critically-acclaimed author and former University of East Anglia graduate and teacher, who is believed to have drowned near Norwich.

The body of Stephen Foster, 48, who lived at Thorpe Road, Norwich, was discovered at Trowse Meadow, Whitlingham Broad, after he had been reported missing to police.

Mr Foster, pictured left, a fiction and non-fiction writer, and father-of-one, taught creative writing at the UEA after having graduated from the university’s creative writing MA course in 1998.

It was while studying at the UEA in the late 1990s that he met his partner, novelist Trezza Azzopardi, who also teaches at the UEA.

Ms Azzopardi, 49, today paid an emotional tribute to her partner of more than 11 years, who she said would be remembered with “admiration” and be “greatly missed”.

In a statement she said: “Steve was a talented and passionate man who excelled at everything he did. Whether writing books, cooking for family and friends, playing sport, or supporting his beloved Stoke City Football Club, his approach was always committed and stylish; he did so many things so very well.

“Steve made friends from all walks of life, but especially from the dog-walks of life - at Winterton, Whitlingham and the UEA – where he was a notable sight, if only because (as he liked to tell people) he chose his silver-grey dog to match his hair.

“He lived a full and vital life, and will be remembered with admiration for his courage, humour and sensitivity.

“We have so many happy memories of him; he was loved by so many. He will be greatly missed by all of us.”

The statement was issued in agreement with Mr Foster’s son Jack, a former Norwich City College student who together with Archie Lamb, son of North Norfolk MP Norman, launched their own record label, Takeover Entertainment, in 2006, which Tinchy Stryder belongs to.

Mr Foster, who was born in Stoke on Trent, moved down to London where he worked as a painter and decorator specialising in interior design, before moving to Norwich where he began writing at the age of 32.

He went to the Norwich School of Art and Design, now Norwich University College of the Arts (NUCA), where he studied for a degree in cultural studies.

After spending three years there, Mr Foster, who has also worked as a chef and mini-cab driver, went on to study an MA in Creative Writing at the UEA where 10 years later he the Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow - a role which saw him help students with their writing.

Andrew Cowan, senior lecturer in creative writing at the UEA, who knew Mr Foster well, said: “Like Trezza, he later returned to teach on our creative writing programme, and was a huge success, initially as a Royal Literary Fund writing fellow.

“He had by then published short stories, novels and best-selling memoirs, and so the students looked up to him as someone who really knew what he was talking about.

“But more than that, they responded to him as someone who was incredibly generous with his time, and genuinely committed to helping them improve as writers.

“Two of our most recent MA graduates to get published - Christie Watson (Tiny Sunbirds Far Away) and Anjali Joseph (Saraswati Park) - both single him out for praise in the acknowledgements to their novels.

“Anjali calls him ‘an absolute hero’, which is how I tend to think of him too, as someone who came from an unpromising, ‘unbookish’ background and made a real success of himself - both as a writer and as a teacher. Students found him inspirational. And he was great fun to have around - a warm, generous, straightforward man who will be badly missed by everyone who knew him, and our thoughts go out to his family and particularly to Trezza.”

Mr Foster’s first book, a collection of short stories set in Stoke on Trent, was called It Cracks Like Breaking Skin and was published in 1999 by Faber and Faber.

It was from that book he was given a deal to write his first novel, Strides. Since then he has had great success with two affectionate and funny books about his dogs, Walking Ollie, who has since died, and Along Came Dylan.

In addition to his books, Mr Foster also wrote a blog which proved popular with friends, colleagues and fellow writers.

An inquest into Mr Foster’s death was opened in Norwich yesterday and revealed that a post mortem examination had been carried out with the preliminary report stating that cause of death was probably drowning, although further investigations need to be carried out to ascertain the exact cause of death. The inquest was adjourned to a date to be fixed. Mr Foster was found at 7.50pm on Thursday.

Would you like to pay tribute to a loved one? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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