Funeral held for author Townsend

Somerset County Gazette: Sue Townsend will be remembered during a service at De Montfort Hall, Leicester Sue Townsend will be remembered during a service at De Montfort Hall, Leicester

Friends, family and fans will turn out en masse today to pay tribute to much-loved author Sue Townsend.

Townsend, who was left blind after suffering from diabetes for many years, achieved worldwide success with the publication of The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 in 1982.

She died aged 68 "surrounded by her family" after suffering a stroke on April 10.

A raft of celebrities paid tribute to the star, who is to be remembered today during a service at De Montfort Hall, Leicester , which is expected to be attended by more than 1,000 people.

An excerpt of her famous novel will be read by friend and actor Tony Howes.

There will also be readings from Stephen Mangan, who played Adrian Mole in a 2001 television adaptation of the book, fellow writer and broadcaster Carol Hayman and journalist James Fenton.

Proceedings will be relayed live on to a large screen in the De Montfort Hall gardens so that anyone unable to get a seat in the hall will be able to follow the service.

Shortly after her death, Tom Weldon, chief executive of Penguin Random House UK, said: ''Sue Townsend will be remembered as one in a handful of this country's great comic writers. We were so proud to be her publishers.

"She was loved by generations of readers, not only because she made them laugh out loud, but because her view of the world, its inhabitants and their frailties was so generous, life affirming and unique.''

Mangan tweeted: ''Greatly upset to hear that Sue Townsend has died. One of the warmest, funniest and wisest people I ever met.''

It has since emerged that Townsend had produced ''a few wonderful pages'' of another book in the Adrian Mole series, according to her publisher.

Townsend was born in Leicester in 1946, and set her most famous work in her home city.

She left school at the age of 15, married at 18 and by 23 was a single parent with three children.

After writing in secret for 20 years while working as a factory worker, shop assistant and youth worker, she eventually joined a writers' group at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester when she was in her 30s.

At 35 she won the Thames Playwright Award for her play Womberang and a year later published the first in her series about Adrian Mole, which she had begun writing in 1975 while living in Leicester's Saffron Lane estate.

The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 was published in 1982 and was an instant hit, going on to sell more than 20 million copies around the world.

It was followed by The Growing Pains Of Adrian Mole in 1984 and six others in the Mole series, including The True Confessions Of Adrian Albert Mole and most recently Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, in 2009.

Much of Townsend's life was blighted by illness. She had a heart attack in her 30s and suffered from diabetes for many years, leaving her registered blind in 2001 and forced to resort to dictating her work.

In 2009 she had a kidney transplant, also a complication of her diabetes, which was donated by her son, Sean.

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