12 November 2019
It is with great sadness and regret that we inform you of the passing of Bentley Cooke. We have lost a dear friend and colleague.
Bentley Cooke was an archive producer based in Manchester specialising in music documentaries and films. Some of the productions he worked on include: ‘Music for Misfits’, (BBC4 - BAFTA Award Winner) ‘The Story of Indie’, ‘Music Box with Guy Garvey’, (BBC iPlayer - RTS Award Winner) ‘Roots’, ‘Reggae & Rebellion’ ((BBC4) , ‘Trailblazers of music’ (Sky Arts) and ‘Danger Decoded’ (National Geographic) – Ben was a big part of many of our worlds.
He will be greatly missed by all of us and our heartfelt condolences go to his family including two young daughters and his wife.
Ben’s family are supporting one of his favourite charities The Smile Train in his memory. If anyone would like to donate please visit Ben's Justgiving page.
Ben was a much loved member of the archive community and we've collected a number of tributes and memories reflecting the enormous impact he had on, and the joy he brought to, his many colleagues and peers throughout his career.
“I was shocked and terribly saddened to hear we’d lost our much-loved archive cohort, Bentley Cooke, last week. I met Ben winter 2015/16 and, that year, then the following year, we worked on 2 hugely difficult music series together. Those intense work experiences caused us to bond. He’d be part in London, part in Manchester. We had phone-chats, he occasionally slept on my couch. We became friends. He called me regularly after that, any time day or night to talk about his life, to ‘shoot the breeze,’ not necessarily about work. He called me his sister, I thought of him as my little brother. He was a very dear friend. I enjoyed his unique character being a part of my life. It’s painful to know I won’t see his name flash up on my phone again, hear him teasing me, paying me far too many compliments. He was such a charmer, fun, kind, intelligent, engaging. He loved people. He loved his family. He was excellent company. He was wild, brave, ridiculous, a big Mancunian bear-cowboy. He was exceedingly knowledgeable and passionate about music, and music archive. He helped me, I helped him. He was a very creative man, had been in two bands. (Bruce Springsteen once emailed him about a cover they did; Ben had been really pleased to tell me that.) Before TV he’d been a deejay and a roadie for Black Grape. Our Ben has gone far too young, leaving his beloved wife, Kasia, and their daughters. I will miss him very much. Our industry has lost one of its finest.” Jo Stones - Archive Producer
“When I was asked to write a little tribute to Ben, I didn’t know where I would start, so I turned to my emails as recently as September. A few from him went like this: "Hey-ya Kirsty, hope you are well sister. I need some footage for a film we’re making" "Yo Dobson! - have you got this?" *Sends random Youtube clip* Lemme know.” “YO KD – What’s your number. Got a massive issue with a film I’m working on. I was sending emails like: “Hey Ben – my number is the same as the one you rang me on yesterday you big div!” “Hey Ben. Where’s that PO you owed me 4 weeks ago?” “Hi Ben. Where’s that declaration you promised me at Christmas?” (It was then June!) Formal? Never. We’d been dealing with each other for well over a decade and to speak to each other in any other way would have been odd. I liked that. I liked how he made me laugh whenever we spoke. I liked that he was incredibly knowledgeable and had on occasion, highlighted something to me that was in my own archive! I liked the fact that whenever I had to organise an event in the north, he would be at the top of my list as attending. I didn’t even have to ask. I knew he would be there, and he was, entertaining the rest of my customers for me! York Races really didn’t know what had hit it that day! And I liked that, for as long as I’d be licencing clips, I’d be dealing with Ben. He would always be in the industry because it needs people like him. Mr Archive that everyone knew. Always working on something big. Yet now, he isn’t, and the archive world is left with this great big, Ben shaped void that’s too unique to ever be filled. Our hearts are with his young family and from myself and everyone at ITV Archive, we will miss you Ben. Always x” Kirsty Dobson - ITV Archive
“I met Ben in 2005 when he came to work in VT dispatch at BBC Manchester with Alan Wingrove. You could tell he was a big character the minute you met him. Cheeky irreverent but charming he could disarm the most grumpy customer. He was not a natural in VT dispatch always far more interested in what was on the tapes rather than the logistics of their movements. In 2006 I started working on the BBC series ‘British Film Forever’ and I needed an assistant. I thought Ben would be perfect and put his name forward. The next 18 months were a blast. He was a natural film researcher. He learned fast, was tenacious, interested and hard working. He had a great take on things and his observations would have you crying with laughter. He could take the merciless rise out of you, but you never felt offended. Later he became known for his work on music documentaries which was his great passion. But film was also a major interest. He could wax lyrical about films like ‘Meantime’ by Mike Leigh. He also loved old footage of Manchester. His Grandad Matt Kelly was legendary as the head keeper at Belle View Zoo, so the interest was deeply rooted. After ‘British Film Forever’ he was never out of work and always in demand. I got married in 2007. Ben and Kasia, his wife, turned up at my reception. He stood in the doorway with a present and his arm round Kasia. Beaming, he vigorously shook my husband’s hand and said “It is great being married. It is the two of you against the F*****g world”. That summed Ben up. He loved life and more than anything he loved Kasia and later on his two beautiful children. For his family his early death is a tragedy, for his friends and colleagues it is a major loss. For me, I feel thankful to have known the force of nature that was Ben and privileged to have called him friend.” Caroline Julyan - Archive Producer
“Bentley was frankly hilarious and could always lighten the mood in any situation. He really knew his stuff when it came to music and archive and his passion shone through in the great projects he worked on. His big personality will be truly missed.“ Jenny Coan - Kinolibrary
“I loved Ben, I didn't know I did, but I did. (In a blokey 2 working men with kids way) A great bloke to work alongside, share stories with and swear about jobs, then laugh a lot together over a drink. We didn't actually work together that many times but we were seldom not in touch. He was great company. A down to earth real character, sometimes blunt, but with a magnetic personality attracting most people and repelling a few muppets (not the word Ben would have used). I called him a rough diamond - he certainly had style with his pointy shoes, waistcoats etc and a glint in his eye with a sense of mischief. We first met in the mid 2000s on The Planet of the Tapes (aka BBC Current Ops Manchester Oxford Rd). Carolyn Julyan encouraged him launching his career as an assistant film/tv researcher on British Films Forever. A few years later he was a music archive producer with the support of Karen Gabay. As BBC colleagues we all helped each other. I am proud to say, having been friends and already a freelance for many years, I think and hope he thought of me, as one of his mentors (along with several others in that BBC North West archive hub). From a lowly start working on "Outtake Tv" I saw him graduate to help produce brilliant music docs. Perhaps I saw him as an apprentice which is what makes it so hard for me now. He should and would have had a bright future (maybe as a director) - of course whilst wearing shades. We had lots of fun at Christmas party a few years ago working together one of the worst jobs ever. Thanks for that job Ben NOT. We often passed job on to each other music for Ben, Sport ones for me. Ben was also a great musician/guitarist and composer too ( I think) and was very hard working generally and especially getting music job and although often poorly or ill he wanted to look after and provide for his family. At the end of Sept when we met in his hometown of Marple he had been very unwell for sometime but was improving on medication, happy and jokey. He was dressed up as usual wearing salmon coloured socks a major topic of conversation. I didn't imagine when we hugged cheerio outside his flat that that was our last time together. It was fun and a privilege to know Ben. I loved Ben, I didn't know I did but I did and I know lots of other did and miss him too. Love and sincere condolences to Kasia and the girls - you had a great man for a dad. but let's finish with on a song from Ben after all we're in show business and the show must go on.” Help Stamp Out Loneliness - I'm On Fire Jim Anderson Archive Producer
“It’s with a hugely heavy-heart that today, we must say goodbye to Ben Cooke .A respected and much-loved researcher and Archive Producer, with a vision for every project he worked on and the heart and soul to translate it into film. From working with him personally, (primarily on rock and roll and motor-racing programming), I knew him as a man who put not only his experience and energy, but also his values into everything he worked on. As a small and close-knit group, we in the archive community will cherish both his memory and his legacy. Goodbye Ben – Always one of our own.” John Rosling - British Pathe
“What can I say about Ben…, funny, knowledgeable – (the human Wikipedia) Archive Producer extraordinaire! Having worked with Ben throughout my career I got know him not only as a client, but also as a friend, whenever I made the trip up North, I would usually end up going back to my hotel with stomach cramps from laughing so much. Ben would always be willing to share his knowledge of archives & the industry with me, he was passionate about the use of archive and would always be trying to find that unique clip that would make his programmes stand out, Recently Ben worked with us helping us catalogue some new collections that we were bringing on. We hired him as we knew that he not only would enjoy the content but would also be able to let us know the gems in them., we were not wrong! Sometimes in this industry you need some one like Ben, the hilarious man that could brighten up your morning by a quick text, instant message or call. The archive community is a poorer place without him in it “ Sandra Coelho - LOLA Clips
“We are all saddened and devasted to hear of the tragic passing of our friend and colleague Ben Cooke. Ben was an extremely funny and warm person and was always great to be around. He will be deeply missed in our Archive world. Not only was he such a lovely person but was fantastic at his job. He truly was an amazing Researcher and it was always a great pleasure to work with him. His expert knowledge of all aspect of music was second to none and I would often look out for music docs that he has worked on, knowing that the archive footage he’d had acquired would be informative, exciting and special. I especially relished my trips to up Manchester, with Ben being one of my main ports of call where we would share a meal and his cheeky sense of humour. He will sincerely be missed and our thoughts and sympathies are with his family.” Obi Adumekwe - AP Archive
“To say that Ben was larger than life was to overplay the significance of life.Every time I met up with him I was prepared to be swept away by his irrepressible energy, by turns he could be deadly serious about his work, then all of a sudden drop an anecdote that would have me struggling to keep a straight face. As a fellow mad music fan, what I liked about Ben was his passion for the obscure or the yet to be found; he was genuine to his core, a student of the old and a purveyor of the new. I'm sorry that I won't get a chance to meet up with Ben again, but I'm proud to have known him at all.” James Kearney - AP Archive