Patrick Kelly, the co-founder and co-editor of Arts Industry, has died. He leaves a wife and two daughters.

Patrick and I started AI in 2001 with the publisher Simon Tooth, first fortnightly and then monthly. In 2007 we added a blog which at one point was reaching 4,000 subscribers. When in 2017 the costs of hard publication grew out of proportion with advertising income and the publisher withdrew, we converted AI to an online only publication and found a new audience.

Patrick, as readers will know, was a very fine journalist with specialisms that reached into corners other cultural journalists could not, such as the arcane and sometimes puzzling world of local cultural politics.

He was born in Belfast the second of six siblings. His parents were Laurence, who worked in trade publishing, and Katheen, a waitress. He went to Warwick University to read history and politics and was quickly involved in student politics, taking part in the famous occupation of the Senate in protest against accommodation fees 

After graduating Patrick went to work for the Hillingdon Mirror in Uxbridge, and went on to join Ken Livingstone’s team at the Greater London Council in the early 80s collaborating on the leader’s many articles during the confrontation with Mrs Thatcher. He managed a team producing borough press releases making the case for the GLC at local level. He worked alongside John McDonnell, later the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. “There was never a time when he didn't show his kindness and gentle caring nature and, of course, his sense of humour” McDonnell said. “Extraordinarily, we always agreed on everything and always parted with a joke and a smile. Above all else, and this might seem unimportant but in politics it is crucial and very rare, he was someone who I always absolutely trusted - not just for his support but more importantly for his judgement and for his humanity.” Kelly left before abolition to join the press office of new Association of London Authorities.

In the late 80s Patrick gave free rein to his sense of adventure by moving to Barcelona where he filed for papers such as The Guardian, the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Telegraph and the Irish Times. In 1991 he returned to the UK to be with his future wife and in due course their two daughters arrived. In 2007 the family moved to York when Patrick’s wife, Dame Julia Unwin, became CEO of the Rowntree Foundation there 

Cancer was diagnosed in 2019 and he became gravely ill at the turn of this year, a few days after his novel, A Hard Place, set in the Belfast of his childhood, was published. He continued to contribute to AI and to work as a freelance until fairly recently 

Patrick Kelly was the kindest, gentlest and best humoured as a friend and companion, a joy to work with (despite a love-hate relationship with the apostrophe) and the most congenial of companions who had an extraordinary gift for forging enduring friendships in the realms of journalism, local politics and beyond. I will try to manage without him, but I don’t know how. – Simon Tait.


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