Jayne in my kitchen eating iced fairy cakes with fellow interns Jessica and Christel.
Last night I heard the horrific news that my ex intern, the illustrator and designer Jayne Helliwell, was crushed to death by a bus whilst cycling down Oxford Street. She was just short of 26 years old. I was asked to comment by the Evening Standard for an article that has just gone live this morning.
Jayne was an incredibly talented and extremely likeable girl who worked on issue 08 of Amelia’s Magazine in 2007. At that stage my interns were squashed together in the kitchen, and Jayne bonded well with the others, some of whom she went on to work with later (read about her collaboration with Christel Escosa on I M / / U R here). She was one of those interns who drifted in and out because she was so busy with other projects, but I didn’t mind because the quality of her work was so good. She was quick, and she could turn her hand to pretty much any creative task with ease, be it designing, illustrating, writing or picking out the best new music.
Some of Jayne’s design work in issue 08 of Amelia’s Magazine.
She was really into the idea of living sustainably and I was impressed with her devotion to veganism – Jayne often eschewed what I had cooked in favour of some tasty morsel she had concocted herself, and she, like me, insisted on cycling absolutely everywhere. I really liked working with someone who had similar ideas about ways in which we can live more lightly on the earth.
Jayne has gone on to do lots of amazing work in the creative industries. I hadn’t spoken to her in quite awhile but I was aware that she was doing well because as well as being so talented she was so prolific: it came as no surprise to find that she worked extensively with musicians, amongst many others. Jayne had a great career ahead of her and she will surely be much missed by many people. You can read another tribute here.
Of course, it all seems so senseless because this tragic accident could so easily have been avoided. Why are our streets so unsafe? We are (rightly) encouraged to cycle more, and we are. There are now many more people on bikes than when I first hit the roads with two wheels nearly ten years ago. Cycling a bike has immeasurably improved my life, and yet many people I know refuse to cycle because it has become so dangerous. I’ve known three people to have been killed in bike accidents, including a Greenpeace climber that I met when we were both arrested at the Kingsnorth Climate Camp in 2008. We got on really well, swapped numbers and arranged to meet up – a month later she was dead. When are the roads going to be made safer? What does it take? How many people have to die?
I’ve cycled down Oxford Street several times in recent weeks, and every time I’ve thought “this is a death trap” – it’s a nightmare obstacle course for every kind of moving object, a collision waiting to happen. Add to this the nonchalant attitude of bus drivers – who frequently ignore cyclists and push us right into the curb – and you’ve got an extremely dangerous situation. Much has been done to educate heavy goods vehicles for the need to stay away from cyclists, but the same cannot be said for buses, with whom we share the same lane on the road. It’s utter madness.
Jayne eating lunch with the other interns.
I really really hope that Jayne’s death will not have been in vain: we need dedicated lanes for cyclists on all the major roads in London, and we need them now. Not at some spurious point in the future. Who is going to make it happen?
On my website Jayne’s contributor’s blurb lives on, but it’s worth transcribing it here. It was written by Jessica Watkins, who was an intern at the same time. I think it just about sums her up: Jayne was a laugh and so much more.
“Jayne Helliwell is a little gem to work with. The first time I saw her, she came pacing across the paving stones towards me, wearing a checked shirt to her knees and pushing a Raleigh Cameo speed bike. Jayne later informed me that it was the same bicycle her mum carried her around on when she was just a miniature girl. My initial, judgemental impression of her was that she was ever-so-cool, and ever-so-small. I wasn’t sure she would want to be my friend, but now we spend our days making each other chamomile teas in Amelia’s kitchen and laughing about elephants in the room. I suppose you have to be there. When she grows up, Jayne fancies being a draw-er, or perhaps an Olympic athlete? For now though, she works at Amelia’s Magazine, looking important on her Apple Mac Power Book. Her likes include cake, and eating cake, but only if it is vegan. Today she sampled Amelia’s mushy pea dahl, and decided that should be on her list of likes also. Jayne has great taste in music, which comes in handy when reviewing albums for the magazine, and when I feel like hearing a new band. She has so far introduced me to everything from Serge Gainsbourg to Tilly and the Wall. We’re ever so trendy here at Amelia’s. One more thing you might need to know about Jayne is that she has the most infectious laugh in the world.”
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