James Eardley obituary

James Eardley was the owner of local brewery Brew Foundation as well as the Ecclesall and Fulwood Ale Clubs. He passed away last month after a three-year battle with cancer. As a former member of our team at Exposed, we knew him well, and here, magazine owner Phil Turner pays tribute. Pictures: Marc Barker.

“How are you?”

It’s a question most of us ask each other countless times a day. More often than not we likely don’t even listen to the response.

And that’s fine. We’re not really asking the question are we? Just a conversation starter before we can get onto the bits we actually want to talk about.

But that’s how I started a conversation with James, the last time I spoke to him, less than a week before he died. Only it’s different when the person you’re asking has got cancer; it’s a question you have to ask even though you’re shit scared what they might tell you.

I’d asked him it plenty of times before of course, on the occasions we’d had a drink at one of his bars or bumped into each other at Sharrow Vale Market. And because James is one of life’s eternal optimists, you always got a positive answer. He may have been knee deep in chemo at the time but James would assure you that all was good and he was making the most out of life.

James Eardley laughing at the bar

This time though, it was a different story.

“Not good actually,” came the reply and I knew instantly that this was going to be the conversation I had dreaded since he was diagnosed with cancer three years or so before. He’d be given ‘weeks’ to live by his doctor just two weeks before, he told me, so this call was effectively about saying goodbye.

James had worked for me for a number of years before starting the brewery and setting up the bars and if I’m honest, his departure had left a pretty big hole in the place. He was such a powerful positive energy, you see. One of those people that genuinely brought joy, laughter (lots of it ridiculously near the knuckle) and warmth to those who met him. And I know all the guys who worked with him at that time felt the same. James was one of the good guys, spreading a little light around as he went.

Even in the face of the worst possible news, he’d stuck two fingers up to the prospect of letting it get on top of him. That was James. The things that knocked lesser men emboldened him. He made light of the situation and took life by the balls, marrying Sam in Vegas and opening his second pub whilst undergoing treatment. He raised money for Weston Park where he could. This wasn’t a man who would let life go on hold while he fought this huge fucker of a disease.

James Eardley in front of neon sign

I’d actually rung on the pretence of something work-related which seemed so trivial it was almost embarrassing, especially when James tried to move the conversation onto that topic. But he wasn’t ringing me back to talk shop, he was ringing me, like I imagine he’d done with countless others, to tell them he’d most likely never talk to them again.

Yet despite that, as we chatted under the cloud of the most devastating news anyone could ever hear, he tried to sound upbeat and take the positives out of it. He’d got the chance to spend time with his wife Sam as well as his mum and dad, who were looking after him in those final weeks. He was genuinely thankful for that.

Yes, he sounded weaker than I’d heard him sound before, and yes, he said he was constantly drifting in and out of sleep but they were sharing moments together and he was with the people he most loved in the world.

In the end, he lasted another six days.

Days, that I’m sure during, he and those closest to him cried a lot. But I also know, because James was James, they’ll have laughed a lot too.

James Eardley at his Ecclesall Ale Club bar

So from a purely selfish point of view, I am glad I made that call that day, and that James took the time out to ring me back, even if it was over some poxy work-related issue.

I’m glad because it gave me the chance to tell him what I and all the people who had worked with him here at Exposed thought about him.

I got the chance to tell him that we loved him and we’d miss him. We both cried a little on the phone. I cried a lot once I’d put it down. But I’d got my chance to say goodbye, for which I am thankful.

So the next time you ask someone how they are, make sure you take the time to listen to their answer. And the next time you get the chance, make sure you tell the people that matter most to you just exactly how you feel about them.

And most importantly I guess, make sure that every time, you, like James, spread a little light wherever you go.

Rest in Peace mate.

A word from sales director Nick Hallam

When I came to Exposed as Sales Director 10 years ago, James was one of the first people I met in our old dark and dingy office on Milton Street. Looking at him with all the piercings, tattoos and nu-metal get-up, he cut a bit of an intimidating figure.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. James was one of nicest lads you could ever meet. Warm, generous and a great laugh, but driven, creative and never let the side down. A great salesperson and you could see his entrepreneurial spirit a mile off.

With a similar (pretty controversial) sense of humour and love of a drink, we became good mates. We went to loads of gigs and had a fair few nights feeling very old in Corporation. He fitted in more than me though!

When he left I was gutted, but we still kept in touch. I knew he would make the Ale Club brand and Brew Foundation a great success and he did. It’s a fantastic legacy.

When he found out about his illness, even to the bitter end he never let it get him down and still joked around and took the piss. I’ll always remember how brave he was and use it as an inspiration, as should everyone.

James, I’ll miss you mate, there’ll be a huge hole in your adopted city without you.

God Bless.

N x

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