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Great sadness: Industry legend David Hicks has died

Tributes pour in about the wonderful man who was a friend and inspiration to so many

 

A true one-off David Hicks certainly was. A great friend to many and inspiration to everyone who had the good fortune to meet him, David most definitely made the most of his life, but the cruelty of motor neurone disease has cut it too short.

David died on Friday, April 8, in Switzerland with his wife Nicole by his side and good friend Miles Robinson, of House Of Cards, close by.

Above: David’s last splurge was on a private jet to Zurich with wife Nicole, her mum and Miles Robinson from House Of Cards
Above: David’s last splurge was on a private jet to Zurich with his wife Nicole, her mum and Miles Robinson from House Of Cards

David will always be remembered for many reasons – his character, his wicked sense of humour, his vision, his entrepreneurial talents, his principles, his dress sense, his love of travel, photography, food, but most of all his love of people and interest in their lives.

Having “stumbled by accident” into the greeting card industry in the late 1980s, David did things his way right from the off, something that was to continue right to the end.

The Really Good Card Company, David’s first publishing venture, made its mark initially with postcards featuring the cartoons of Rob Duncan, published under the typically oblique range name of Not Particularly Orange. This led on to a vast array of over 250 greeting card ranges.

While not a designer himself, as a publisher they all had the David Hicks touch, adhering to his mantra of having to be different from what was on the market – no “me toos” for him, that was for sure.

While some were incredibly successful, most notably Happy Hefalumps, Edward Monkton and Bright Side – by David’s own admission he “also published some awful failures, but they were always a bit different”!

Above: (left-right) Happy Hefalumps, Edward Monkton and Bright Side were some of Really Good’s most successful card ranges
Above: (left-right) Happy Hefalumps, Edward Monkton and Bright Side were some of Really Good’s most successful card ranges

The expansion sideways for both Really Good and Soul, which launched as a sibling brand in 1997, from cards into gifts provided another avenue for David’s entrepreneurial nous to come into play – only he could have come up with the idea for a Man Tin of which an astonishing three quarters of a million were sold over a five-year period.

Always one to see the bigger picture, standing up for things he believed in, David was a leading light in the complete reformation of what is now the Greeting Card Association some 25 years ago, making it relevant and invaluable to newbie publishers, recognising them as the lifeblood of the industry with their new design approaches that are relevant to the ever-evolving tastes of the card buying public.

While David took the decision to close down both Really Good and Soul in 2019, with the intention of spending more time travelling and on his photography, he retained strong links with his many friends in the industry.

However, less than a year ago David was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Aware that his health would deteriorate rapidly, in true David fashion, he made no secret of the fact that when the time came, he would be going to Switzerland to take control of the inevitable.

Sadly, that time came last week.

Above: The message David asked wife Nicole to post on Facebook a few days ago
Above: The message David asked his wife Nicole to post on Facebook a few days ago

David received two industry Honorary Achievement Awards, one in recognition of his contribution to the greeting card industry presented at The Henries in 1997, the other for his achievements in the gift arena was given at The Greats in 2017. He will never be forgotten.

Above: David with his Greats award in 2017
Above: David with his Greats award in 2017

Below are just a few of the tributes that have been sent to PG Buzz…with others to be shared over the coming days

Ged Mace, managing director of The Art File

“David Hicks was my best friend. We go back over 30 years and the first time we met at Spring Fair, he rugby-tackled me to the floor!

He was an inspiration to so many of us, delivering brilliant greeting card ranges through Really Good and Soul over decades in an industry he loved. David was a game changer.

We will all have special memories of David, for me these include many a fun time in Oxford, Nottingham, London, New York and Hong Kong. However, the best times always involved drinking too much on his boat as we rewrote the greeting card industry from A to Z. Later Bro… 

My thoughts are with his wife, Nicole.”

Above: David with good friends Ged Mace (second left), Alan Hawkes and Lisa Shoesmith, who was general manager of Really Good and Soul, at a PG Live opening night party
Above: David with good friends Ged Mace (second left), Alan Hawkes and Lisa Shoesmith, who was general manager of Really Good and Soul, at a PG Live opening night party

Alan Hawkes, former owner of Paper Rose

“Long, long ago before David and I swapped the hair on our heads for the hair on our chins, we were at the NEC chatting. He was telling me about a new house he had bought in Oxford. In an amazing coincidence I used to play in his house as a child! David immediately invited me to stay for an evening and have a good nosy. That was the real start of our long and enduring friendship.

In 2007 when I retired from Paper Rose, we teamed up to become travelling buddies and went on many trips across the globe together on paths less travelled.

There is not a better way to get to know someone than to go travelling with them, and our friendship grew from strength to strength. We absolutely honed the art of taking the piss out of each other. As so many of you will attest, David was a master of the art, but his savagery could always be forgiven and even admired as it was executed with such wit and elegance. I remember those trips with such fondness, so many adventures, so many scrapes and skirmishes but so much fun. We always had each other’s backs covered and I will so miss my good pal and travelling companion.

David was both interesting and interested in everything we came across. He was a giant among men. He always gave so generously of himself, not just to me but to the countless people whose lives he touched.

He was the dearest of friends and I cannot express how deeply I will miss him.”

Wendy and Steve Jones-Blackett, co-owners of Wendy Jones-Blackett

“The card industry has lost its brightest shining star and we have lost a lovely friend. Some people are just born legends and David Hicks is one of those. We wish we’d had more time with him but, in his words, ‘it was great in its shortness, if you know what I mean’! Fun, outrageous, revolutionary – an original thinker. He will be much missed by so many xxx.”

Above: David with Wendy and Steve Jones-Blackett on his boat
Above: David with Wendy and Steve Jones-Blackett on his boat

Paul Woodmansterne, chairman of Woodmansterne Publications

“I don’t think I have met even a handful of people who, like David, really knew their own mind and had the courage of their convictions to live out to the full what they said. From the moment I met David, I was struck by his challenging presence – his independent dress code, his considerable height (taller than me!), that inquisitive right eye, the goatee beard and (at the time) pigtail…and then I heard his softly-spoken vowels and precise fricatives – this was clearly an educated man, and I was intrigued.

David organised a meeting in a hotel on the outskirts of Oxford to try to form an alternative greeting card club to the stuffy, old-boys’ network of the GCCA. I was there with others to try and persuade him instead to come and help reform our association from within. Well, it worked, and David became one of the most dynamic presidents of the renamed and reformed GCA.

It was his winning combination of quiet assurance and fiercely-held independence that made him so admired by his fellow publishers. While the rest of us were constantly trying to find the sweet spot in trading deals, often stretching the boundaries of compromise, David would stand his ground. If he didn’t like it, he’d smile and simply wouldn’t do it.

David, you are one of a kind, a giant of a personality and we are all going to miss you. There are too few people in the world like you!”

Jennie and John Procter, co-founders of Scribbler

Jennie: “1981 was the birth of Scribbler, and David has featured in our lives since then. He was a giant of a man in our industry, massively funny, very creative and much loved by all of us. Time spent with him was always enormous fun and usually centred around delicious meals and divine wines! John and I travelled to Hong Kong on one occasion and David took it upon himself to show us around – my goodness, he certainly did us proud. It was a whistle-stop tour, including shop visits, horse racing, meals, Star Line Ferries to viewpoints and markets, and included time spent with the Really Good team! We also were lucky enough to be hosted on both of his beautiful boats, once for the boat race and another time, not so long ago, for a magnificent dinner just before he married Nicole. He also came to visit us both in London and Dorset and we always laughed together.
It is with such enormous sadness that his journey is now over, and that he was able to make his plans happen. Only a few weeks ago we joined him, with Nicole, Greg, Maranda, Paul and Sarah for dinner close to his houseboat, and he knew that he had little time left. His bravery and love for Nicole shone through that evening, and we will remember, forever, saying goodbye. We will miss him so much as he meant a great deal to us both, and hope that we can participate in keeping his legacy alive for the future.”

John: “I will always remember David’s wonderful eccentricity and, of course, his equally off-the-wall fashion sense!
A natural showman, he would exploit any opportunity to raise money for good causes – the day he had his flowing locks cut at the NEC, so many years ago, transforming him from hippy to hipster is a lasting memory!
So many of the card ranges that he came up with were, frankly, bizarre and as a result, amazingly, legends were born – a brave man.
The ubiquitous Man Tin was extraordinary – I well remember visiting our Cambridge branch where I think it was the only gift on display!
I remember him telling me he had bought a houseboat in Hammersmith which turned out to be the one I had spent many evenings at The Dove, the pub opposite, fantasising about owning – it was a real treat to visit him there with one particularly memorable boat race lunch and, latterly, his amazing boat in Wandsworth.
If one had to describe any individual as larger than life then that description fitted David perfectly – he personified the quirkiness, individuality and humour that transformed the greeting card industry in more ways than, in my opinion, anyone else has done or probably will in the future.
A giant of a man and a really nice guy – we’ll miss him so much.”

Above: David having his locks cut at Spring Fair
Above: David having his locks cut at Spring Fair

David Pinder, managing director of Asia World Sourcing

“Back in 1991 when I had Birthdays card stores, I first bought the Not Particularly Orange range. That was my first foray into Really Good and the world of David Hicks!

There is a saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ – if David Hicks was a book then you should open that cover, read the foreword and then you are presented with an absorbing diversity of chapters. Each one full of interest – from his work, his hobbies, to the man himself. It’s a book you won’t want to put down.

While the final chapter may have been written, like all good books, it will never lose its shine.

One of my hobbies is photography andm while my photos might not reach the heights of Hixposure, when I pick up my camera and take a photo I will smile and remember David. The big man with the big heart, a true friend.”

Top: David Hicks in front of Penelope, the boat he and wife Nicole lived on, moored on the Thames in London’s Wandsworth

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