Rick Vick obituary

Other lives: Poet who taught in prisons and rehab centres

My best friend, Rick Vick, who has died aged 71, was known as “the Poet of Stroud”. He was a writer who became a teacher in prisons and rehab centres in Gloucestershire. He contributed to the research and writing on my recent film, Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, as well as editing Tracking Down Maggie and Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer.

Rick, the son of Richard Vick, a high court judge, and his wife, Judy (nee Warren), a property developer, attended Oakham public school in Rutland.

I met Rick at the City of Westminster College in 1965 when we were both 17. It was a gathering ground for eccentrics; we had both been expelled from school. We very quickly became friends and somehow we knew right away that we could always depend on each other. We remained best friends for five decades.

Rick was rebellious, mischievous, swashbuckling, handsome and full of tricks: how to gatecrash the best parties, how to get the most beautiful girls. But he was unusually in tune with the frailty and suffering of others.

After college, in 1967 Rick went to work as journalist on the diary column at the London Evening Standard. When he graduated to crime reporting, I could see that what he was experiencing in writing these stories was beginning to really upset him. Rick had always had the incredibly impractical ambition of being a poet. Writing about crime was definitely not what he had in mind.

In 1971, when we were in our 20s, I went to the small Greek island of Hydra. At my suggestion, Rick visited for a two-week holiday, but ended up staying for 14 years, living on the island along with Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen, who became his friends.

Hydra gave Rick the calm and peace he had always wanted. Beneath the openness of his family, whom I had grown to love, there were tensions, which came to haunt Rick for most of his life, especially following the death of his mother in 1974 after she fell down the stairs at the family home.

Some of this is beautifully expressed in his poetry and writing. A collection of his work, Indian Eye, was published by Yew Tree Press in 2013. The conflicts that made his life, at times, so difficult gave his work an honesty and strength that always touches me.

After Hydra, Rick went to Victoria, British Columbia, where he worked as a ferrymaster and wrote poetry. In 1997 he moved to Stroud to be near his sister Amanda, and started teaching poetry and writing in prisons, encouraging inmates to write about their own lives and experiences.

Rick is survived by his partner, Gypsy Gee, by his three children, Lucian, Faye and Will, from his marriage to Shelley Campbell, from whom he was separated, and by his sister Philippa. Amanda predeceased him.

Nick Broomfield

The GuardianTramp

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