‘I walked on hot coals for Keith Newbery’

Former editor of the Observer magazine Sue Gilson revealed how she once walked on hot coals for Observer editor Keith Newbery who has died after a short illness.

Here she shares a special tribute to him:

I thought it was some sort of jokey test of loyalty. But I should have known there would be more to it with Keith involved.

“So, Mrs G (he had affectionate nicknames for all of us), you’d walk on hot coals for the Observer, wouldn’t you?” he asked one morning.

“Of course,” I replied. “Well, that’s just what you will be doing on Friday night,” came the response.

And so off I went to write a feature about a fire walk in aid of St Wilfrid’s Hospice.

And because it was Keith I was writing it for, I absolutely did the best job possible.

Because I so respected him as my editor, and as a great journalist and writer, I always upped my game.

That was one way he got the best from his team.

The other was to be that rare sort of boss that so trusts his staff in their various roles that he would just let us get on with it.

That was his management style. And it worked so well.

From the moment he came bowling into the newsroom with a cheery ‘morning’ for everyone and a sense of purpose in his stride on a Monday morning, you just knew the week was going to be okay.

His presence seemed to bring with it both grativas and beneficence.

As the Observer Magazine editor for five years I was lucky enough too to be the one of the first to read his brilliant weekly column every week, which often made me laugh out loud and always made me think.

He made sublime writing look easy.

He was a joy to read and a joy to know.

And I’m happy I walked on hot coals for him.

Award-winning journalist and former Observer editor Keith Newbery dies

Keith Newbery: Obituary

Tributes paid to former Observer editor Keith Newbery