Fitting tributes for Joe Downes’s funeral
The day of Joe Downes’ funeral - Monday - saw gatherings of hundreds of people in Waterbeach and Great Chesterford.
Joe died unexpectedly, age 32, at his home in Brighton, triggering a wave of shock and sorrow, with on outpouring of love and affection on social media that continued this week for his funeral at Cam Valley Crematorium in Great Chesterford – and afterwards at the skate park in Waterbeach near where he grew up.
“It was incredible to see the streets lined with people, down the High Street and on the Green,” said his mum, Waterbeach resident Jane Downes.
Joe was educated at Waterbeach Primary School, Cottenham Village College and Long Road Sixth Form College, and moved to Brighton six years ago, where he co-founded a hip-hop record label, Village Live Records, as well as being a committed skateboarder, artist and music fan. Murals have paid tribute to Joe’s love of music and his ability to connect with everyone he came into contact with.
“There were hundreds of people lined up outside the crematorium,” Jane said. “The whole day the sun shone for my boy and it was the most fitting send-off for my son possible.”
The service was conducted by accredited ‘funeral celebrant’ Alex Collis of Humanist UK with Joe’s parents and his partner Nikki’s parents walking behind the coffin.
“Alex was amazing,” said Jane. “One of the things that really moved me was that she was in tears too, she was saying: ‘He sounds like the most amazing man.’
“I took a sunflower for his coffin and there were photos and a video of where he’s skateboarding, and his two best friends from Brighton, Josh Williams and Chris Pillington, did him proud in their eulogy.
“Friends had travelled from Italy, Berlin and Rotterdam to be there. When we got back to Waterbeach you could hear the music from the skate park from my house, it’s at the other end of the village, and the number of people there you would not believe, from when he started school aged four chatting to the hip-hop guys - it was wonderful to see.
“One of the UK’s top skaters, Charlie Monroe, was there – Joe started skateboarding with him round here 21 years ago – and all these guys and girls from Brighton. It was mind-blowing.”
Around 150 people watched the ceremony online and an estimated 200 more turned up at Waterbeach skate park to celebrate Joe’s life.
Stephanie Ball said on Facebook: “Incredible to see so many people who loved Joey Deez in the village this afternoon. Someone there today said to me that Joe had changed his life and I’d definitely second that. Seeing him chose to focus on the things that brought him love and joy genuinely made me re-evaluate my own experience. I will endeavour to remember his attitude to life every day.”
Family friend Caroline Harland was in Waterbeach for the send-off and watched the funeral ceremony virtually as only 30 people were allowed into the service.
“We wanted to give him the send-off that he truly deserves,” she said. “Even though we could only stand at the side of the road as the hearse was driven past and could only watch the funeral remotely, it was one of the most loving services I have ever witnessed. When I see sunflowers now I will always remember him.”