There has been an outpouring of support for former HarperCollins creative director Ben North, following his revelation on social media last week that he has entered palliative care following treatment for brain tumours.
North stepped back from his role at HarperCollins in 2017 after his first diagnosis. Since then he has published two books of poetry: a private chapbook Slow Then Fast, which raised over £2,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity, followed by the independently published Thirty-Three Poems: Some of Which Are About Death. His work saw North shortlisted for the 2018 Bridport Poetry Prize.
North's announcement on Twitter that he has now entered palliative care treatment has been retweeted over 1,500 times and "liked" nearly 50,000 times, and his collection Thirty-Three Poems has surged in sales, reaching number one on the Amazon poetry chart for Poetry (physical edition) and number nine in the digital format poetry chart.
Meanwhile Chris Riddell illustrated some of North's poems over the weekend, posting on Twitter.
At HarperCollins—where North met his wife, Lana, whom he married in 2015—he worked closely with teams in creating the Borough Press and HQ imprints, as well as on the look and feel of HC's home in The News Building for the 2015 company move, on marking the publisher's 200th Birthday celebration in 2017, and on the creation of events platform Bookgig. He also worked with authors including Derek Landy, Nathan Filer, Hilary Mantel, Nigel Slater, Chris Evans and Alan Carr. Before his role at HC, North was creative executive at Penguin for nearly five years.
Industry figures have expressed their deep appreciation, with former HarperCollins c.e.o. Victoria Barnsley saying: “If the publishing world is made up of suits and creatives, Ben is a creative with a capital 'C'. The most brilliant copywriter, but also someone with a real understanding of brand and how to position titles, authors, campaigns and even imprints. At HarperCollins Ben carved out a unique role for himself, and one of my greatest fears when I was c.e.o. was that he would be poached by another house, because I knew that we would never be able to replace him. It’s so sad that in the end it was illness that forced his departure."
She added: "Always aware of Ben’s talent, I was not surprised by his recent success as a published poet. Of course it makes perfect sense—Ben is someone who really understands the power of language in short form. I feel very privileged to have been able to read his poems and further enjoy the creations of this remarkable man.”
Author Nathan Filer called North "a person of such rare energy, charisma, wisdom and generosity." He said: "For me, he represents the very best of publishing and I feel so blessed to have worked alongside him, and moreover, to call him a friend. His legacy is woven into the fabric of so many books by so many authors, and now—wonderfully—into his own poetry collection, which captures his irreverent wit and spleen, and his big, beautiful heart.'
HarperCollins c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne added his own words of appreciation, saying: “Ben has been an important creative force within our company for many years - and across all areas of it. His illness has curtailed a brilliant career where his creative eye was across our publishing, our covers, our marketing and even our offices. In 2015 he was responsible for turning our smart new digs at London Bridge into a true publishing space—the look, the feel, the inspiring imagery and words on our walls will be part of his lasting legacy at HarperCollins."
Photograph: Simon Weller