Professor of Human Geography
It is with a profound sadness that we share the devastating news that our dearly loved colleague Paul Cloke died unexpectedly on Wednesday 25th May 2022. Emeritus Professor at Exeter Geography, Paul joined our Department in 2005. He was an internationally respected and leading figure in geography, having recently been awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s Victoria Medal, and was an inspirational teacher, colleague, mentor, and friend at Exeter. We will miss him enormously.
Memorial event on 2nd July
If friends and colleagues would like to come and celebrate Paul's life, details of the event can be found below.
Date and time: 2.30pm on Saturday 2nd July 2022
Venue: Belmont, Western Way, Exeter EX1 2BL
Parking: Triangle Car Park, Russell Street, EX1 2BL
Dress code: Blue or colourful. Shorts encouraged. No suits.
Light refreshments and a chance to chat and catch up with old friends afterwards. Please RSVP to email@example.com if you are able to stay for refreshments.
Tributes to Paul
Every time I saw Paul, he would greet me with a smile and would stop for a chat and a catch up. He always made time to ask about work, of course, but also how I was and how things were in life. I will miss his thoughtful and considerate manner, the generosity of just a few minutes sometimes, which made a difference to how I felt and how my day then went. In this way he set a great example of how to be, a kind and generous colleague who I will remember fondly.
I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of Paul's passing. He was a wonderful scholar and human being. I had the great honour of working with Paul when he served as External Examiner of our geography degree programmes here at Edinburgh from 2012-2015. I was the Chair of the exam board during this time, and I was so impressed and inspired by many qualities Paul brought to his role - huge integrity, astonishing attention to detail, and above all, a genuine ethic of care towards students and colleagues. He was great company too - even during stressful moments he was always calm and full of good humour. We bonded over mutual agreement that Iain Duncan-Smith's welfare reforms were utterly despicable, and needed to be resisted in the strongest possible terms! An intellectual giant of human geography, he was one of those rare individuals in academia who spent as much time mentoring and supporting others as he spent on his own research. We disagreed strongly on the importance of certain theoretical approaches to urban geography, but he would always listen closely to what I had to say with an open mind, and a willingness to debate in a caring and respectful manner. He will be greatly missed by the discipline (and well beyond it), and he leaves a shining example of how to make human geography a subject characterised by respect, care, and compassion.
I was so very sad to hear this devastating news through a former fellow researcher in the 'glory days' of the School of Geography at SDUC, Lampeter.
I arrived at SDUC, Lampeter at the same time that Paul did at the start of the 1977-78 academic year, him fresh from PhD success at Wye College, and me a fresh-faced and impressionable undergraduate. Paul is responsible for provoking my interest in Rural Geography / Planning, and his options were first on my list in my second and third years. He even made the compulsory 'Statistics in Geography' course interesting, which is a testament to his teaching skills! His influence on the SDUC Geography School was immeasurable, and he contributed significantly to its prowess as a centre of excellence for the discipline during what were truly the 'golden years'!
Paul went on to become my PhD tutor, encouraging and motivating me to complete it in (just over) three years, where many others failed to do so! Indeed, non-completion was not an option to maintain his 'bragging rights' over his academic colleagues! He was an inspiration, a mentor, and not least a friend. When I finally left Lampeter after 6 years, he and Viv took my girlfriend of the time under their wings, and kept her sane during her final year. She spent many happy hours in their welcoming family home, enjoying family life with (the very young) Elizabeth and William.
I have since continued my interest in planning that Paul nurtured, first as a planning officer in Local Government, before transitioning to consultancy and a director level position with a national practice, and latterly setting up my own business. During my career I have had the opportunity to work on some exciting and prestigious projects, including leading the planning process for awarding-winning redevelopment of Princesshay in Exeter, and The Forum Project for the University.
I am indebted to Paul for setting me on the track that he did, and for the privilege of being guided by him during the early stages of his academic career which has gone on to reach such apogean heights. Although I haven't been in contact with him for some years, I feel a very great loss to learn of his untimely passing. I am truly humbled to have known him and have been under the tutelage of not only a great academic, but a top human being.
My thoughts and prayers are with Viv, Elizabeth and William at this most difficult time, and also with the academic community at the University of Exeter where his light clearly shone so brightly in the latter stages of his illustrious career.
Paul was my PhD supervisor (2006-2010) and really nurtured me through the experience. He was kind but challenging, critical yet supportive and struck a good balance between guidance and letting me go my own way (“Are you sure you want to do four case studies? Well, it’s your PhD…” For the record, he was probably right). He helped build my confidence in writing and develop my own voice in my work, something which I’d struggled with, and even after I graduated, he was always there for some encouragement and support. I’ll try to take his practice of a responsive, enthusiastic and hot-drink-fuelled supervisory relationship forward but I feel the gap that is left both personally and within the discipline. Thank you Paul, for everything.
Incredibly sad news. I only met Paul a couple of times, but he was incredibly generous, kind and present, which meant a lot, when he spoke to me as a PhD student. Mine and my family's thoughts are with Paul's friends and family.
Dr Andrew S. Maclaren
I am so sorry to hear this sad news. Paul was the first person I met on my first working day as a Geographer in 2001. He welcomed me to the Bristol Geography Department as HoD and I was a bit awestruck. Paul was so friendly and supportive, especially in Department seminars and workshops. Paul organised some memorable social events too. The wine tasting evenings were legendary, as was the annual staff-postgraduate football game, played for the ‘golden spade’. It was such a pleasure to work with Paul and to see him at conferences over the years since. He will be missed by so many people around the world.
Paul came to St David’s University College, Lampeter, in 1977, and it was immediately apparent to all of us that we had appointed a geographer of outstanding ability. He rapidly established his school of rural geography, and proved an inspirational teacher, supervisor and mentor. Above all, however, he was a rock solid and reliable colleague. Paul and I enjoyed a friendly and healthy rivalry on the squash court and five-a-aside football pitch, and he was a terrific middle-order batsman and wicket keeper in our Senior Common Room Cricket Team. I have many happy memories of Paul on field trips, in seminars and, inevitably, in the pub. Although we had not been in touch for some years now, the news of his passing came as a terrible shock. He is gone far too soon, and my deepest sympathy goes to Viv and the family. It’s an old saying, but in Paul’s case it is entirely appropriate: we shall indeed never look on his like again.
Professor Mike Walker
I owe so much of my academic journey to Paul. He inspired me the very first time I saw him, when he delivered an open lecture at my undergraduate institution. The way he spoke about his research with homeless people, his methodologies and his overall approach to working on an area of geography I did not know existed at the time, ignited a passion in me. Even though he was from a different institution, he met with me several weeks later to advise me about researching homelessness for my undergraduate dissertation. His advice was golden, the project went well and I loved doing the research. So much so that I came back for more, applying for PhD funding where Paul would be my supervisor. Paul was a great supervisor: a fountain of knowledge and full of connections. He was also a great mentor, supporting me through some really tough times, and letting me cry in his office more often than I'd care to admit. I looked up to him so much, and always felt so incredibly lucky to have him on my team. Every time I read a paper or book he wrote, I feel so proud that I have had his input on my work. As I type this, I'm looking at the report I wrote for a homeless charity that he proof read for me; I see my book that he cried when reading; I can see my first publication that I sent him and I can see a messy pile of notes that will form a thesis that will cite his incredible work throughout. I'm devastated to hear of his passing and it will be a great loss to the world of Geography.
Such sad news. Paul was an outstanding academic – his contributions to human geography, and rural geography in particular, were immense and will continue to be hugely influential. Above all, he was a really kind, caring and fun person. My sincere condolences to Paul’s family, friends and colleagues at Exeter University and beyond. He will be greatly missed, and long remembered.
Damian Maye x
So saddened to hear of Paul's sudden death. Incredibly, it's just over 40 years since we last met. It was July 1981, on a rare warm sunny day at SDUC Lampeter, where I'd just graduated with a 2:1 BA Honours degree in Geography. And it was Paul's infectious and passionate love for his academic subject which played such a large part in making my three years in mid-Wales such a happy time. My abiding memory of Paul is that he always seemed to have a big smile on his face... whether he was lecturing, leading a tutorial or playing 5-a-side football. With Paul's support, I remember choosing a rural geography topic for my dissertation. He encouraged me to consider going on to do a Masters degree in Canada. But my heart was set on a broadcasting career in sports journalism instead ... and sadly, we lost touch after our paths went in separate ways. But I know from my own experience, that Paul touched the lives of thousands of students over the years. And his memory lives on. RIP
Paul was a wonderful teacher, mentor and human being. He was my first year tutor in Lampete and steered me through quite a traumatic year and made me realise what a wonderful place Lampeter was for learning. After graduating, Paul gave me my first 'proper' job as a researcher despite my clear unsuitability for professional responsibility at the time. The fact that so many people from those Lampeter days have gone on to become academics, or worked in the rural studies and planning field is a testament to Paul's wonderful capacities and, as a legacy, is very hard to beat.
Paul taught me as an undergraduate in the 90's at Bristol and encouraged me to pursue postgraduate study. His engaging teaching style and passionate enthusiasm for the discipline was foundational. I have a lot to thank him for and am so very sorry to hear of his passing.
Dr Hannah Macpherson
It is with deep sadness that I write in memory of Paul, whose death has come far too early. Paul had the most profound influence on my career and, indeed, had it not been for his mentorship, guidance and collaboration, I would not have had the academic career that I have had. Paul taught me as a student – I was one of his first undergraduates and he arrived at Lampeter like a breath of fresh air, quickly becoming one of the most popular and well-respected members of staff. I still remember very fondly his module in ‘rural geography’ in the days when around 8 students could still sit around in a seminar room discussing articles and ideas, chatting, laughing and sharing stories. It was in those classes that I realised that I wanted to continue in academic life and Paul encouraged and supported my applications for a PhD place. It was also Paul’s teaching that gave me my early interest in rural geography. Then, after my PhD it was Paul who offered me my first job as a research assistant and who helped me develop the next steps towards becoming a lecturer.
I loved working with him – he was incredibly generous in the way he included me in the project and in associated writing and it was with Paul’s help that I was able to use those experiences to develop my own interests and approaches. While he generally drove ideas and projects, he never pulled rank or made me feel as if I was the ‘junior partner’. I was really happy when I found out he was to move to Exeter in the early 2000s. We never worked on another research project (although there were a couple of unsuccessful ESRC applications!) but we did write together, supervise and teach together in more recent years and its hard to contemplate research and teaching in a world of Geography without Paul in it.
Beyond my own personal career, I am also very grateful for what Paul contributed to the discipline as a scholar. As one of the leading academics of his time, Paul truly shaped the way Geography has developed with his innovative ideas and constant quest for new and interesting ways of looking at the world. Generations of undergraduate and PhD students have benefitted massively from his input. I once questioned Paul about the shelves and shelves of PhD theses in his office – it turned out they were all written by students he had supervised and he could talk about any one of them.
As well as his academic inspiration and support, perhaps even more important to me was Paul’s kindness and sense of fun. Returning to Lampeter had its challenges for me and Paul understood and helped me though them. He was always welcoming me into his family for meals, chats, dog walks and to just hang out when I needed to. His kindness in those days and then again since was so special.
The Geography corridor in the Amory Building has seemed strangely quiet since Covid without Paul’s laughing and whistling and now even more so. I shall miss him hugely.
I was so very sad to hear this news. Paul was the internal examiner for my PhD. I worked as his research assistant for two years. We co-authored numerous publications together. Paul and Viv were so welcoming and supportive to Kath and I during our time in Bristol – and great company. To this day, I think he’s the only person to ever get me dancing at a ceilidh. I’ll remember Paul as he appeared in his profile photos. Never too serious or self-important. Always beaming, open, welcoming.
I’m so sorry to hear that Paul Cloke has passed away. Paul was always warm, friendly, and supportive in his interactions with others, generous with his time, and profound in the depth of his knowledge and insights into geography. I was always fascinated by his presentations and writing about religion, spirituality, postsecularism, and homelessness (to name a few), touched that he took the time to take me for coffee every year I was external examiner at Exeter, and aware of the care and attention he gave to younger scholars at PhD vivas and conferences. Paul’s intellectual insights have enriched our understanding of so many things; geography as a discipline has lost one of its most profound thinkers. More than this, we have lost a kind, warm, generous, supportive, and insightful person; we will really miss him.
I was totally devastated to hear about Paul’s sudden and untimely death. He has been a constant source of support to me for the past 20 years, from when I was a PhD student and then new faculty member at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand – where Paul spent time as a visitor – and in my current job at the University of Edinburgh – where for several years, when our school was a much more unhappy place that it is now, Paul was our external examiner. I can honestly say that in both places, he really made things better for me and other colleagues – through a combination of saying the right thing in the right place to the right people, intervening in subtle ways to try and address the destructive side of our working lives, and giving the most amazing advice. All of it was driven by his integrity, his kindness, his insight and ability to pick up on what the problem was, and his belief in doing geography ethically. In fact, I had just communicated with him over email in the week before he died, and his brief reply came with another little nugget of wisdom, his last one to me. Thanks for everything Paul, RIP.
Paul Cloke was a exceptional geographer. Almost single-handedly in the 1980s-1990s, he brought a critical edge to rural geography/rural studies, as well as going on to undertake wonderfully insightful and committed work on geographies of homelessness and much more, while innovating with respect to matters of ethics, belief and postsecularity. He also co-authored many crucial pieces and textbooks on geographical theory and methods. Personally for me, he was instrumental in my first lecturing appointment, Lampeter, and immediately became a friend, mentor, confidant, co-researcher, co-author and, in sum, trusted back-stop whenever needed. His humour, kindness, imagination and readiness to engage were second-to-none. I owe debts to Paul on many different levels - intellectual, emotional, ethical - and I wish now that I had maybe said this more to him down the years, but I was so sure that there would always be another occasion to do so. That such an occasion is not now to be is an immeasurable sadness. Thanks for everything, Paul.
I first met Paul in the mid 1970s when he was conducting his PhD at Wye College and I was an undergraduate. Our paths crossed many times in the years that followed and I had the utmost respect for the depth of his scholarship, his compassion and concern for others and how he related his deep Christian faith to his work. Always a friendly smile when I saw him on campus and time for a few words however busy he might be. A great loss to academia but much more so to the family and friends whose lives he touched so deeply.
Paul was responsible for me deciding to read geography at Lampeter. He took the time to phone me, and his enthusiasm and passion just shone though. He was an inspirational teacher; approachable, kind and tolerant. What a legacy he leaves us! I hope his family will take comfort in the many lives he touched.
- I knew Paul for over 40 years, meeting him first when we were both PhD students. I watched his career blossom and saw his idea for a journal focused on rural studies develop into a highly successful major international journal. His work was inspirational and he influenced successive generations of rural scholars. His writing was incisive, innovative and always very readable - it was always a pleasure to see his latest work in print, much of which influenced both my own teaching and research. I shall miss you old friend.
Paul was a frequent visitor at the University of Canterbury, which is where I met him as a new lecturer many years ago. His most recent visit was 2020, and he left early before New Zealand went into COVID-19 lockdown. Paul always cheerily contributed to our department when he was here, teaching students, mentoring PhD students and staff, and even memorably singing a song he had learned in te reo Māori in the staff room at full volume! Paul invited me to be part of revising the Introducing Human Geographies textbook, which we have been working on with a wider team over the last two years. During that time, he has been my referee on a number of fellowships, grant applications, job applications and promotions applications. His generosity was legendary and genuine, and I greatly appreciated the way he lived out his faith in his everyday life without making it weird. He will be hugely missed by myself and my colleagues, and remembered for his kindness and cheerfulness.
Paul was not only a great source of inspiration for my research but also a great friend, and indeed a mentor. He not only involved me as a co-editor of the newest edition of a widely known and used textbook, but provided me with priceless suggestions about my career development. His passing is a tremendous loss to the geography community, and literally drove me into tears!
Over the years Paul was a regular visitor to the Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha University of Canterbury in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand. Through these visits I got to know Paul. Not through shared research interests, but as friends. This was partly due to our shared Christian faith, something that clearly showed itself in Paul’s character and personality. Paul was a man of great integrity, kindness and generosity. What he also had was a great sense of humour and fun. A person I enjoyed spending time with when he visited us here in Christchurch.
I am deeply saddened to hear of Paul’s passing. What a shock! I first met Paul at the University of Bristol when I started as an administrator in the Geography Office. Paul and his wife Viv were so lovely and welcoming. Having studied Geography at University I was overwhelmed to meet and work with the author of several of my course text books! Paul was unassuming, kind and always ready to listen. He was a much-respected teacher (all of the students wanted to do his modules) a great supervisor and a much-loved colleague. Then when I moved to the University of Exeter, it was lovely to find Paul’s familiar face in the Amory corridors. Thinking of Viv and all of Paul’s family and friends – my heartfelt condolences to you all. Much Love Lizzie xxx
I really saddened to hear that Professor Paul Cloke has passed away. He was an inspirational lecturer, a friend to all, and had a great sense of humour.
A memory I have is from early in my first year at Lampeter, when he went to give a Geog.soc lecture at Aberystwyth. At that point, he didn’t know I had an identical twin sister studying geography at Aberystwyth, and he was confused why ‘I’ was sitting in the audience. Plus his OHP had failed (he did love his ohp’s). My sister vividly remembers when he spoke to her and found out the truth. He came into the lecture the next day, highly amused by the incident.
I also remember when one our geography students (Stephen) died. We were all naturally very upset. I remember talking to him afterwards, and he said some very comforting words. Although I don’t recall exactly what was said, I still appreciate that conversation all these years later.
Writing this, I’m picturing my geography lectures back at Lampeter, and what happy memories they were and Paul was very much an integral part of that. Put simply, he was a Lampeter legend.
I had the pleasure and privilege of being taught by Paul as an undergraduate at St David's, Lampeter '79-82. I wish I'd paid more attention to him and others such as Mick Griffiths as I've come to realise just how progressive Paul and his Geography department peers at Lampeter were for that time.
He always was' bright eyed and bushy tailed' at lectures (not something you could say for us students!), challenging but full of fun and banter. It might sound an obvious thing to remark, but I was always in awe of just how intelligent but grounded he was.
His teaching and example led me to seeing the 'big picture' in all aspects of life which has stood me in great stead. Hopefully, my little company in its masterplaning, regeneration and transport work is doing things in a way that Paul would approve of, forward-looking , socially responsible, engaging and fun!
Thank you Dr Paul Cloke, thank you. Life wouldn't have been so rewarding and fun without you.
Paul was incredibly generous to me during the nine years I knew him at Exeter. He was always open with and supportive of me as a younger scholar, and taught me lots about positive PhD supervision, navigating institutional processes, asking awkward questions, querying orthodoxy, and more. He wore his brilliance lightly, and never stood on ceremony or pulled rank. He was funny, kind, and lived out his trust in people. He often talked about his family and was evidently very proud of them. I know that he admired senior scholars who didn’t abuse their power and who created opportunities for others, and he himself was a shining light in those regards. I will miss him very much, and I’ll continue to consider him an example of how to be a humane, principled, good-humoured (but grumpy when appropriate!) presence within the university. I know that I will be only one of many people who have been inspired by Paul to make every day count. I’m so sorry and sad that he didn’t get more time to do all the things he was looking forward to.
Paul interviewed me for a place to study Geography at St David’s University College (Lampeter) back in 1984. He brought the subject alive, made it relevant and fun but never once made me feel indebted for his decision to accept me on to the course. But I did feel indebted - my academic profile was not compelling at first sight but Paul took what I hope was an insightful gamble and allowed me to become a graduate, the first in my family. I am proud to have shared a lecture theatre with Paul, he was the ‘rock star geographer’ of his day with his ideas shared at A level; he did it all with seamless ease . He was a gentle egalitarian man whose sharp sense of humour never reduced anyone in terms of stature - he always built students up despite our many inadequacies. I have often thought of Paul in the intervening years and regret not having thanked him for granting me that place in Lampeter - I am the person I am today because of that vote of trust. With condolences to his friends and family.
Séan PF Harris
Paul Cloke was one of my lecturers when I was at Lampeter SDUC 1981-84. He was an inspirational and enthusiastic teacher and helped to cement my love of geography. I still have some of his books on rural planning. I am so very sad to hear this news and would like to pass on my sincere condolences to all his family and friends.
Fiona Freeman (née Maynard)
I have just learned of the news of Paul's passing. It is a shock. Paul was my associate supervisor for my PhD at the University of Bristol and he was an important influence on my life (as I know he was to many other people). He is an important figure in geography and in rural studies more generally, but above all he was somebody who acted with integrity and helped others. Greatly missed.
I met Paul once, only briefly, but he made a deep and abiding impression. I was a little nervous in the circumstances, but Paul was so disarming, warm and fizzing with energy that I immediately felt at ease with him (since then I have been told that my impressions were far from unique). I regret that our paths didn't cross again and his passing is such a tremendous loss. An outstanding geographer and a lovely man, my thoughts are with his family, colleagues and friends at this time.
Paul taught me during my first year as an undergraduate, but even before that had an unknown influence on what would go on to be a life in geography. My A-level teacher had a PhD in Rural Geography, and was always singing the praises of his work, and this inspired me to apply to Lampeter in the early 90s. Always encouraging, and open to undergraduates ideas, Paul in no small measure set this ethos for all the staff in that small but vibrant department, something I have tried to take with me as lecturer. He will be greatly missed.
I was very sad to hear of Paul's passing. My first academic job was covering his teaching while he was conducting research in New Zealand, so In a way I owe that opportunity to him. He was away while I was working at Bristol, but I saw him a fair bit over the years and he was always helpful, supportive and - dare I say this - refreshingly normal for such an accomplished academic. He always seemed entirely enthusiastic about both his work and the rest of his life, and when I think of him now it's that big grin that stays with me. Thinking of all of his family, colleagues and friends who knew him so much better than I did and will be missing him terribly.
Paul Cloke has been a part of my journey through human geography since the outset. As an undergraduate, his writing opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about and doing geography. When a PhD student, he provided inspiration for early work in animal geographies; as a researcher, he involved me in conversations about the intersection of ethics and art collaborations; and as a departmental colleague he enlivened discussions around work on participation and responsibility. It is wonderful that Paul’s work will continue as part of the intellectual landscape in which I am and others working, but so sad and strange not to have his energy and enthusiasm joining us in these explorations. We were very lucky that he chose geography as his field, and he will be hugely missed by those who continue to work within it. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends as they navigate this most difficult time.
I first met Paul when I enrolled to the MSc. in Society and Space in Bristol in 1994. As new students we went on a tour of the area around the department whereupon Paul approached me and said, ‘I believe you liked to be called Bon’. I’ve had that nickname since a child and was thinking of dropping it when I moved to Bristol. However, Paul’s grin whilst saying this made me stick with it - I never knew how he found out. This was my first interaction with Paul, and it cemented our friendship and of course, our professional relationship.
I worked with Paul over the ensuing years in many ways, principally in the geography of religion. He was kind enough ask me to contribute chapters to different collections he was editing, and in more recent times I examined several his PhD students. He was also my internal examiner for my PhD thesis.
Paul was a formidable thinker: I remember many conversations with him about the intersections between theology and geography where I felt I was barely holding my own. His passion for the topic and his desire for social justice, driven my his faith, was unparalleled in my experience of academia. He is a regular contributor by proxy in my lectures on the rural idyll and other topics, and I always urge my students to read his work. When I next quote him I will look heavenwards.
More importantly than his academic credentials was Paul the person – extremely kind, generous, and genuinely funny. He was always a delight to bump into at a conference and we often shared a laugh about the ‘industry’ we work in. Paul was one of the rare breed of academics who could turn it off when a pint was in front of him - and I remember many a pint with him in Bristol and elsewhere.
His generosity was exemplified on one of the last occasions I saw him: after being an external examiner for Paul in Exeter he gave me a lift back to the airport. He told me about his lovely home and the views he enjoyed from the house. We talked about music (my obsession), and I told him of my budding ‘new’ career as a studio engineer. I offered to record him and told him to bring his guitar up to Manchester and we’d have a session. He seemed genuinely interested. I’m gutted this will never happen.
I’ve never found the urge to write anything about another geographer passing. This is how much Paul meant to me. I was utterly devastated to hear the news and will remain so for some time. I can only hope that his close friends and family can find comfort in how highly he was regarded by all those that worked with him and got to know him. He was an incredible person.
Julian (Bon) Holloway
Paul was such a great colleague, mentor and friend. I learnt so much from being with Paul and he gave me such valuable advice. Most of all I remember his joyful laughter brightening up the corridors. He will be sorely missed.
Paul was my PhD supervisor from 2012-2016, we worked together and remained in touch until his untimely passing. From our first encounter – some time before commencing my PhD – my experience of him was as a surprisingly open and caring presence. His disregard for unnecessary propriety or pretence in favour of meeting people’s needs and forming heartfelt solidarities made him a comforting yet inspirational mentor and friend.
We have lost a great creator and encourager; someone who was able to envisage, fight for, and make-real a better world for those they loved both directly and indirectly. It is tempting to talk about how exceptional Paul was. And yet, I think if he was able to edit the tributes to him somehow, he would discourage us from this, and in a way, it would be another thing he got right. If there was anything exceptional about Paul, it was his ability not to have his vision clouded by his own formidable abilities, instead seeking always to develop a harmony and amplification of-and-with the best qualities of those around him. There are so many qualities and memories of Paul that we all must cherish. But his joyful humility in the service of beauty and justice is probably the one he would have us remember most vibrantly and emulate in his honour.
Paul was the best kind of intellectual, teacher and no doubt colleague and friend. He was an external reviewer of our Dept when I began in Galway 20 years ago - he was so attentive, thoughtful and wonderfully supportive. It was an early and important signalling for me as a young lecturer of how to be kind in academia, whilst being critical and incisive in a productive manner. Paul was a gentle and brilliant man. My heartfelt condolences to his family and all his colleagues in my alma mater at Exeter. John
Top guy, never forgotten him from my time at SDUC Lampeter 1989-92. I broadcast a quote of his to an online audience of 200+ UK Local Authorities only 6 months ago... A great loss.
I am so so sorry about Paul's untimely death. I have known him and his work for more than twenty years and he has made a massive contribution to the development of Geography in the UK (and globally). For this, he is rightly celebrated.
I think we should also pay tribute to him for being so open and passionate about the things he believed. We bonded over a recognition of the power of faith and congregation; few academics are part of that world and even fewer are willing and able to talk or write about it in public. I loved that Paul reflected his personal experience in the academic work and teaching that he did.
I am very sad that we didn't get to work together even though I joined the same university and department in 2017 - the geographical and organisational distance really does get in the way of collaboration - and we should have worked harder to overcome that distance. Crossing the Tamar shouldn't have been so hard.
Sending my condolences to Viv and all the family and all Paul's friends and colleagues. I know that Paul will rest in peace after a life very well lived and loved.
I only met Paul once, in the early stages of my doctoral research back in 2018 - I was struggling to identify my research focus - so after emailing Paul - he kindly agreed to see me at his office in Exeter University - in spite of his hectic schedule. Our conversation gave me clarity and direction - apart from a lovely few hours with someone with a kindred spirit for mission. I am about to submit my thesis and then await my viva - I am grateful to Paul for his early input and wisdom -I refer to some of his work in my thesis. I will be uplifitng his family in the coming days and weeks - the Lord is near.
I was a geography student at Lampeter (University of Wales) from 1976 -79 and during the 1977-78 academic year, I was chair of the Geography Society. The Society hosted visiting lecturers, speaking about their passions and inspiring a younger generation.
I first met Paul sometime in 1977 or 1978, when he spoke to the Society – this was before Paul started as a lecturer at Lampeter. I cannot remember the title of the lecture, but it contained the word ‘panacea’ and I guess its theme was rural geography. I had not heard the word ‘panacea’ before, so it was a new word, for me to over use for the next ten years.
Paul joined the teaching staff and taught an optional course in Rural geography – an option I opted for. I found Paul to be an excellent teacher, a great communicator, who was approachable and supportive. These qualities and Paul’s passion for his subject made him inspirational.
Looking back, with the benefit of age, Paul’s early months at Lampeter must have been a stretch – having just completed his Doctorate, moving from London to a small rural community, ‘cheek by jowl’ with students not much older than himself and with a young wife – Viv. For those unfamiliar with Lampeter, I will put small into perspective – Census 1971 showed a population of 2,197, and in 1991, a mere 1,989.
I only knew Paul for a short-time, a long-time ago – and Viv who typed my essays and dissertation – but I was saddened to hear of his sudden passing, so young. It is difficult to conceive how Viv, family, close friends and colleagues must be feeling – I share this memory as an insight into the start of Paul’s illustrious career and offer my condolences to Viv and all those close to Paul.
I am so sorry to hear of Paul's passing. As my undergraduate tutor, PhD supervisor, colleague and friend, Paul had been there throughout my academic career. Paul not only inspired and encouraged my interest in rural geography, but created the field of critical, socio-cultural rural geography that allowed me and so many others to follow. More than that, Paul was a role model for what an academic should be: inquisitive, rigorous and innovative, yes, but also generous, caring, compassionate, principled and above all driven to make the world a better place. I have so many memories, but the constant is his broad smile and cheery laugh. I will miss them, but the legacy of his work and the imprints of his faith live on.
Paul was a huge influence on my life – both as a human being and an academic colleague. As a relative latecomer into academia (early 40s) as well as working on a Ph.D. that seemed relatively obscure (Religion and New Towns) I gravitated towards Paul’s work as it was at the time (early 2000s) blazing a trail in attempting to get human and critical geography to take religious materialities and imaginaries seriously. His interdisciplinarity around the topic was both breath-taking and a little bit daunting: theology, philosophy, sociology and religious studies, alongside his impeccable research into rural geographies and latterly geographies of poverty and marginalisation, as well as geographies of trauma and resilience. He was often fearless in taking on established nostrums.
He was always generous in his praise, time and constructive criticism and mentored me into being a more confident and experimental researcher in the field. It was a privilege to work on one or two research bids with Paul, as well as co-write with him (and Andy Williams and Calum Sutherland) Geographies of Postsecularity : Re-envisioning Politics, Subjectivity and Ethics (Routledge 2019). The first two chapters of that book are a fitting tribute to the extraordinary depth, richness and originality of his later work.
There was so much more to come, which his why his sudden passing feels so cruel and sad in so many ways. But I, and I know countless others, are so grateful for the legacy of his thought, writing and relationship which far outweigh what most of us will ever be able to accomplish in our own lives. Thank you Paul, so much.
Professor Chris Baker
Paul was my undergraduate tutor, dissertation supervisor and PhD supervisor (University of Bristol 1995-2004). Paul changed my life, and believed in me more than I believe in myself.
Paul was/is a role model... always working to create inclusive, collegiate, caring, supportive, fun spaces in historically hierarchical/exclusionary/elitist institutions. I was a shy, anxious student - first in my family to go to university - and Paul was down-to-earth, mega-supportive, and made me feel like I belonged. I have so many happy memories of our times together. When I think of supervision meetings with Paul I remember lots of laughter, plus Paul's unconditional support and massive enthusiasm. I will always be so grateful for Paul's mentorship, although I'm not sure I ever really told him so.
25 years on, I often find myself repeating Paul's words of wisdom with my own PhD students... "you've got to start from where you are", "scratch where you itch", "walk the talk"!... Wise words... Indeed, words to live by.
It is hard to think we will not share another belly laugh, knowing glance or mischievous smile with Paul - his face and eyes were always so expressive. I worked on the same corridor as Paul for many years, and exchanged many everyday conversations and deeper dialogues as life threw us both some more complex curveballs. I supervised a few PhD students with Paul. He took such pride in his students, their work, and achievements. He had a very strong idea of how he best supervised a PhD and clear expectations of the rhythms of activity over the course of the degree. The routines of going for coffee, discussing work, and checking in. These were often productive rhythms, enabling close connection and encouragement of the work in hand. He really loved learning about the fieldwork findings and the critical interpretation of ideas. There was great companionship. He threaded through his own prodigious knowledge and encouraged new directions of thinking at every turn. I learnt a great deal observing and talking with Paul and will always be grateful to him for the mentoring he gave me, and the insights afforded because of this. I will miss him.
My deepest condolences to all Paul’s family. I have walked a parallel pathway losing a parent in their early retirement, such a loss when there was so much promise and joy to come in the years ahead. It is so very unfair we have had Paul taken from us in Geography too soon, but your family loss is immeasurable. I know so much of his scholarship was enabled because of the care and time he was given by you as his family. Those many books and hours of writing and reading were achieved because of the time and space you gave him. This was always clear to me. He always passed on through his conversations his deep love and pride of you all. I am so sorry you must endure the pain of his loss, it is such a hard price to pay for the love you shared.