Big Issue Vendor

“Nobody else was quite like Sean Hughes”

The premature death of Sean Hughes is a reminder that we should never delay in trying to reach out and rebuild bridges

Sean Hughes, the comedian, died last week. The news came as a sad shock. Those who had known him over the years didn’t realise how deadly a grip the booze had got on him. And in the end it looks like it did for him. He was just 51.

Last week there was a curious piece published in The Guardian that outlined Sean Hughes’ faults. But didn’t detail a lot of the good.

I was friends with Sean several years ago. I was introduced by my wife and her oldest friend who had known him a good deal longer. This was a thrill as 10 years previously I had thought Sean Hughes was one of the coolest men alive.

I was friends with Sean several years ago which was a thrill, as I had once thought he was one of the coolest men alive

There he was on TV making it clear that skinny Irish boys with dark, curtained hair, a love of The Smiths and a way of furiously smoking cigarettes could get girls AND take England if they were funny. Which was ridiculous, of course, as nobody else was quite like Sean Hughes.

He was tremendous fun, and VERY funny. A generous host, great at table-football, withering, charismatic, a good storyteller, funny on meeting Morrissey, obsessive about music, miserable about Crystal Palace, encouraging of poor attempts to make vegetarian meals. And present. He was there if he said he would be.

I know he was a bad boyfriend. And he could be unnecessarily cruel in relationships. He was not always great with women. He could also be egotistical and self-centred. Despite that, I liked him a great deal.

We fell out. I can’t really remember why. But it started with something small and over the last few years a gulf developed. It calloused over. It felt impossible to bridge and repair. And now I really wish I’d tried to fix it.

I have no great insight here, about death or loss or about the horrors of alcoholism. I wanted simply to say this. Life really is short. And before you know it, it’s gone. I made a mistake I think I’ll long regret by not trying to make up. So, don’t delay. Don’t find excuses not to get in touch, not to meet up with that old friend or family member. The alternative is final.


The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.

When it comes to addiction, frequently those gripped don’t want to be carried out of it. That has to be their own decision. But for those who do, those I know who are battling and winning, they are not alone. They have a network around them, whether sponsors and groups, or friends and families.

All of us who know somebody under the hold of addiction know how difficult that person can be to be around. But we need to find a way to be there.

Because when it’s too late, it’s too late.