He was only 29, but he had already discussed and planned his funeral. It should have been many years before those plans became reality. Tragically it wasn’t, because Martyn Hett was one of the unlucky ones at the Manchester Arena on May 22nd 2017. Having watched Ariana Grande, one of his favourite pop-stars, he was leaving happy and excited with the rest of the crowd when Salman Abedi detonated his suicide-bomb. Martyn was one of the dozens of people within range and one of the twenty-two who were killed.
His family have chosen to forgive the suicide-bomber, knowing that Martyn himself would not want hate to be associated with his passing. He was a proud member of the gay community in his hometown of Stockport, south of Manchester, and became one of the central figures of the tragedy. He had hundreds of friends in real life and thousands of fans online, all of them attracted by the passion with which he lived his life and the gusto with which he threw himself into popular culture. He was a superfan of Coronation Street, never missing an episode and sporting a tattoo of Deirdre Barlow, his favourite character.
Devoted to fashion, music and clothes, he was a public-relations manager who travelled all over the country watching his favourite pop-stars, like the Pop Idol winner Michelle McManus, and he and his boyfriend Russell had appeared on the television series Come Dine with Me. The Ariana Grande concert would be his last chance to express his lust for life, but there’s no doubt that he would have preferred a short, colourful and exciting life to a long, dull and miserable one.
His sense of fun and his quirky humour were reflected in his funeral plans: he wanted the mourners to wear smart black clothes, but with a touch of “something fabulous”. Surely when he said that, he had no inkling of how soon – and how many – people would be following his “black but fabulous” dress-code as they mourned his passing. But if he had guessed that his love of going-out and dressing-up might bring him within range of a maniac and a suicide-bomb, he would surely have chosen to run the risk and continue to enjoy life, not stay at home and vegetate.
In the end, hundreds attended his funeral service at Stockport Town Hall on Friday July 30th 2017, including stars from his favourite soap and Michelle McManus, who greeted arrivals before singing in Martyn’s honour. Martyn himself, whose family and friends said he would have loved being the centre of attention, arrived in a Coronation-Street-themed coffin and entered the Town Hall to the tune of Michelle Carey’s “Beautiful”. It was a funeral “for a diva”, just the way Martyn would have wanted it, but his love for his immediate family and closest friends was reflected later in the day, when a private wake and cremation were held elsewhere.
Even in their own grief and mourning, however, his family did not forget that other families continue to be bereaved in less public but no less painful tragedies, and they asked that donations be made to the Kidscan Children’s Cancer Charity and Beechwood Children’s Bereavement Service in memory of their beloved son and brother. Like a shooting star, Martyn Hett blazed briefly and went out, but his passion for life will continue to inspire all those who knew him.