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Obituary: Colin Slater

28 January 2022


Dr Christina Baxter writes:

COLIN SLATER? Would that be a pint of beer you want, or are you going for the tram, or perhaps you are looking for the media lounge in Meadow Lane football ground?

Colin Slater the Christian was a man of parts. One of the best-known figures in Nottinghamshire and well respected in numerous quarters, Colin, who died on 10 January, aged 87, had wide interests and influence in Nottinghamshire and beyond, such that there was an extended item on the BBC East Midlands News after his death.

Born in Bradford and a member of the church choir, he found his faith shaken, when he was 14, by his father’s sudden death. His church attendance lapsed, but a verger visited his home and talked kindly to him, encouraging him back to church, and then continued to offer friendship. Colin never forgot that it was a lay person who helped him “keep the faith”; the Vicar never came near him.

Having been the editor of the Shipley Guardian, he moved to the staff of the Nottingham Evening News, and worshipped at Christ Church, Chilwell. He became a young churchwarden, working alongside the Revd John Williams, in a period when the church fostered many vocations, including one current bishop. There, he was part of team including two honorary curates, George Carey and Graham Dow. He was churchwarden for 38 years and very much disapproved of the legislation that I helped to shape which put a limit on holding the office of “normally six years”.

The Revd Mike Peatman, whose vocation to ordination grew in that congregation, recalls being a member of Colin’s Pathfinder group. There, Colin, who “could easily have taken over meetings”, “showed admirable restraint in the interest of involving others, offering words of wisdom which carried their own authority”. As a young student, Mike was charged with arranging the church concert; Colin took him aside to ensure that jokes at the expense of the vicar, churchwardens, etc., would be included, as it was very important that they were not seen as above such things. Mike was able to reassure him that they were regarded as having no such immunity.

As churchwarden, Colin encouraged ordinands, ensuring both financial and prayer support from the church where needed. “He was there when I was ordained, again when I got married, and when I was made an incumbent, and it was always remarkable how many people he seemed to know.” Colin never seemed out his depth in relating to people of all ages and in all walks of life.

Professionally, he was subsequently a sports commentator on BBC Radio Nottingham, where, from 1968, he clocked up 2700 match commentaries. In 1965, when Notts County FC was on the verge of extinction, he was pivotal in gaining investment — hence his membership of its Hall of Fame. He was also for nearly 20 years head of public relations at Nottinghamshire County Council.

As chair of the Radio Council for Nottinghamshire, he lobbied successfully to keep local radio in the BBC. His career included work for the Severn Trent Water Authority, as commercial manager of Trent Bridge, and as chair of the Lord’s Taverners’ East Midlands branch.

In 2001, he was appointed MBE; in 2009, he received a lifetime’s achievement award from the Sony Radio Academy; and, in 2010, he was given the freedom of the Borough of Broxtowe.

In 1984, he had a big hand in securing Trent Bridge cricket ground for the diocese of Southwell’s centenary celebrations, at which Archbishop Robert Runcie presided. He was for many years a member of the Bishop’s Council and a Bishop’s selector.

Colin was elected to the General Synod in 1990 and rejoiced to serve on the group that produced the report First to the Lord: Funding the Church’s mission. Stewardship was a keen interest for him; so he was often called on to preach, or to talk at stewardship suppers. These addresses were expertly delivered, tailored perfectly to varying audiences, using every skill of an experienced broadcaster. He was also elected to serve on the Clergy Discipline Measure panels; his experience from chairing the Bench of JPs in Nottinghamshire stood him in good stead.

He was always willing to assist others, repeating in countless ways the quiet work of the verger whose kindness drew Colin back to faith. At the time of his death, he was still vice-chair of the Council of St John’s College, Nottingham, and also a trustee of Emmanuel House, which works with the homeless.

Dozens of people have a story to tell of his kindness, wise advice, or assistance in times of trouble. In vocations weekends at St John’s, he often led the workshop on lay vocation, and was exceptional in what he told of the challenge of living a life of integrity in which faith influenced everything. He was delighted to be able to attend Bishop Patrick Harris’s memorial service and the final service for St John’s College, a few months ago, when he was already very frail, and everything was a struggle. Prayer and worship were at the heart of his life; so it is not surprising that so many mourn his death.

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