FAMILY and friends gathered in York to celebrate the life of a York man described as the "best-loved Viking storyteller in world".

Adrian Spendlow was well known as a poet and Viking storyteller. He died aged 66 from cancer 12 months ago in the USA, where he lived with his wife Heidi.

Last week, friends and family remembered his full and colourful life at The Crescent in York.

They have written this tribute to Adrian, which we are sharing with readers today.

Many people will have fond memories of Adrian, and if you would like to share your stories and photos you can do so via our online book of condolence - you'll find a link to this at the end of the article.

Here is the tribute to Adrian...

ADRIAN Spendlow was born in Bridlington on March 24,1954 to Ronald Spendlow and “Connie” Spendlow.

His father was a steam train driver so as a young child the family moved to York, the city that would become his home for most of his life and one that he loved.

Growing up he was very close to his older sister Ginny and the family travelled the length and breadth of the UK and most of Europe, his parents taking full advantage of their free train passes for both being railway workers.

The Spendlows were always performing. Ron came from a family of musicians and would regularly all sing around the piano. Connie ran and organized events and shows for local and national wine-making groups. She was also one of the first people in York to take people on ghostwalks. All of this obviously rubbed off on Adrian and influenced him throughout his life.

York Press: Adrian with his wife Heidi in America shortly before he died aged 66 from cancerAdrian with his wife Heidi in America shortly before he died aged 66 from cancer

As a teen he was already an activist, protesting outside a coffee shop against its racist service. Adrian was always proud to stand up for what was right and had a huge loving heart.

Attending Lowfield School, he made many friends for life. As they grew older everyone's lives diverted on such different paths but they would always find a common ground and enjoy each other's company, most likely being thoroughly entertained by stories of Adrian’s escapades.

Adrian married young and had his first son Luke at 20. It was then he started working as a psychiatric nurse, first at Naburn, Bootham and eventually Clifton hospital. At Clifton. Adrian became well loved by the patients and staff, running the social club for the patients.

After the breakdown of his second marriage Adrian gave up the job he loved to become a full time single parent to his daughters Holly and Lucy. This was groundbreaking stuff in the 1980s. Adrian was the first ever male playgroup leader and the only man in the single parent support group he attended.

It was when he met his third wife, a folk musician, that Adrian started to perform publicly more often. The Black Swan Folk club open mic night was just the start. Adrian became the go-to poet for folk festivals around the UK, spending the summers travelling the country performing and mc-ing, writing a poem for every artist he introduced, much to the glee of each performer that encountered him.

York Press: Adrian was a poet on the folk sceneAdrian was a poet on the folk scene

Just before his youngest son Robin was born he started working part time at the drop-in centre in York, a space set up to help people with mental health issues in the community. Although he loved to perform he still felt the need to help others.

Performing, though, was his ultimate passion. He even inspired and encouraged others to embrace their talent and become artists. So many artists have stated that they wouldn’t be the performers they are today if it wasn’t for Adrian. Running nights and performing around the city, York’s thriving arts scene owes a lot to Adrian.

In the late 90s, Adrian became a performer full time. His work included reminiscence with the elderly, storytelling workshops in schools, and working in some of York’s top tourist attractions.

It was his work with the Jorvik Viking Centre that started Adrian on his path to becoming a Viking Skald. He loved folk history and all mythology, but was particularly drawn to the stories from the Norse myths, and developed his own unique dramatic twists that people absolutely loved.

York Press: Adrian, front left, taking part in the Viking Festival in YorkAdrian, front left, taking part in the Viking Festival in York

In the mid-2000s, he became the Skald to a Viking chieftain in Norway, performing there each summer at the Viking market. During the last few years of his life, Adrian spent entire summers in Gudvangen, becoming the best-loved Viking storyteller in the Viking reenactment world.

The first time Adrian was diagnosed with oesophagus cancer he had to stop work and move from his home town to live in Scarborough with his mother. After undergoing gastric pull-up surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, he was back to work, travelling the world. In 2018, he was invited to perform at Viking festivals in the US, where he met his soul mate and wife Heidi Sherman, who is the curator of a Viking house and festival planner in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

He made so many friends in America, as he did everywhere he went, but Heidi was something special. Those who have known him his whole life felt he was truly happier than he has ever been. During the short time they had together, Adrian and Heidi travelled together through Latvia, Britain, Norway, and the Upper Midwest for festival performances and visits to meet each other’s friends and family.

In March 2020 Adrian went to stay with Heidi in Green Bay, where they married in a small official ceremony. Their pandemic lockdown was a blissful honeymoon spent in their cozy bungalow with their beloved tabby cats. Adrian stayed with Heidi in Green Bay, working on his and his father’s railway stories for publication, until his passing on December 13, 2020.

Adrian was much beloved by so many; however, he was the nucleus of his family. So many might not know what a devoted family man he was. He still called his mother Connie every day, he described his sister as his best friend, was a really very cool and funny granddad to his five grandchildren, adored his nieces and was a hugely supportive father-in-law. Fiercely proud of his four children, his greatest gift to them has been his love, that and the ridiculous in-jokes about nothing and everything.

To quote Adrian’s favourite other storyteller Terry Pratchet: “If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s.”

Adrian’s life is an amazing story and he is a part of so many others.

A celebration of Adrian's life took place in York on Tuesday with family and friends at The Crescent.

If you would like to share your memories and photos of Adrian you can do so via our online book of condolence below...