WARM tributes have been paid to an inspirational teacher, author and arts campaigner who has died, aged 86.
Mel Dyke MBE, began teaching in 1969 and was known to generations of people thanks to her 27-year career which took in spells at Athersley Lawrence Briggs Infants, Darton High School, The Oaks in Kendray and Grimethorpe’s Willowgarth High School.
She also served as a teacher training lecturer at Bretton Hall, PGCE tutor at Leeds University and as a guest lecturer at Emory University, Georgia.
But it was, perhaps, after her retirement when she started the work that would leave such an indelible mark on her hometown and its people.
Following the closure of facilities for the teaching of the arts in Yorkshire, she established the charity Arts in Action in 2007 to support lifelong learning.
The charity uses the arts as a springboard to help young people take the initiative to maximise their own potential through awareness of and involvement with successful role models.
Organisations to benefit from her expertise and undeniably impressive contacts book included Barnsley Youth Choir, the Lamproom Theatre where she was chairman of the board of trustees, the ambitious project to create the Experience Barnsley museum and also the Barnsley Civic Trust.
Mel knew everyone – and if she didn’t, she would always know someone who did.
She was also an acclaimed author who used her connections across the globe to showcase the great achievements of people who were Barnsley born and bred.
Household names such as actor Shaun Dooley, radio presenter Stephanie Hirst and Egyptologist Prof Joann Fletcher all listed Mel as having a major influence and impact on their careers.
And in 2019, her lifelong commitment to culture in her hometown was rewarded when she was made an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Speaking at the time, Mel, of Staincross, said: “It came as a complete surprise but I’m absolutely over the moon with the news. I don’t see it as a personal achievement, it’s something for Barnsley and everyone I’ve come across during the last 50 years.”
Mel always insisted one of her proudest achievements came at Willowgarth HIgh School when she spearheaded a ‘book-in-a-day’ project, with contributions from miners, families, school children and celebrity supporters.
She said: “Culture and the arts have been a big part of my life. I’ve used the stories of high achievers from the town to help inspire others – to dream realistically.
“I was an English teacher at Willowgarth High School in Grimethorpe during the miners’ strike and the resilience of the community is something I’ll never forget. If you’ve forgotten your roots, and they are Barnsley, go back and dig them up, use them as part of your elbow, because they will get you there...”
Mel’s funeral will be at noon on Wednesday, August 9 at St Mary’s Church, Barnsley, followed by cremation at Ardsley and then a wake at the Holiday Inn, Dodworth.