A few words about a proper superhero: Sheena Patel

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A tribute to a brilliant human being, who left us last week.

When the world loses someone wonderful, the general convention is that any piece written about the loss of them paints a picture of that person as being utterly perfect. An individual without fault, where you don’t say anything other than hugely positive things about them.

I can’t do that about the mighty Sheena Patel. It’d gloss over way too much of what made her so fun, so brilliant, and so human.

Sheena’s jokes, after all, were a bit hit and miss. Her movie taste? Well, we agreed to disagree on a few things over the years.  Heck, if I was meeting her for a breakfast or coffee, she often insisted on sending me one of those pesky meeting invite whatsits, even though she knew my phone struggled with such things. One in ten of her messages had an amazing typo in it. And she took the edge off the bit where she bought popcorn for my kids when she then nicked a bit of it back.

Yep, Sheena was a proper human being. A flat-out wonderful human being.

Sheena is the kind of person who you don’t often hear about in the movie industry. Her work was in publicity and PR, and personally, I’d worked with her for the best part of a decade. One of her first acts was to get me introduced to Dolph Lundgren, and it’d be fair to say we were firm friends after that. We had Muppet chats, action movie chats, breakfast chats, and plenty of oh-lord-are-they-really-launching-a-trailer-at-six-in-the-morning chats.

Movie PR is often painted as a glamorous line of work by anyone who doesn’t work in movie PR, and it’d be true that it has its perks. But I’ve seen the hostility those who work in the industry get, from every side of the fence. Angry journalists who can’t get seats to films, and angry personal publicists who think they can treat other people ‘not very well’. Sheena, somehow, found humour, efficiency and smiles in the midst of it all, even when all that was being fired at her.

She also fought like hell for films, and never lost her love of them. I remember, in my previous job, she rang excited as anything to be working on Diary Of A Teenage Girl, telling me how great it was, and urging me to see it. She was bang on the money too.

And heck, if you were having a problem, or struggling a bit? A message would be in your inbox, or she’d be on the phone. Proper human decency and kindness, she had it in abundance.

Even when life dealt her shitty cards – and boy, did it – Sheena was very Sheena. She was diagnosed in her early 30s with cancer, and I’ve still got the email where she broke the news to a bunch of us, where she promised she’d be back on the vodka, cider and Nando’s in due course. As always, she was as good as her word.

She outran the bloody thing for seven years, too, which given what she was up against was incredible in itself. But tragically, it finally caught her last week. And the world is so, so much poorer as a result.

I appreciate lots of you may not have met Sheena, or heard of Sheena, or had the pleasure of hearing her distinctive laugh from 20 paces. I’m sorry if you didn’t. For not only has she been an instrumental part in getting word out about films you may have loved – big and small – over the past decade or so, she was simply a spectacular human being. I wish half the filmmakers behind some of the movies she helped push could have seen her passion and enthusiasm for their work. I’m just, selfishly, glad that I got to.

To her friends, family and colleagues, on behalf of everyone here, our condolences, our love, our hugs. On a personal note, I’m just glad Sheena was in my life. And, like many right now, devastated she isn’t anymore.

Rest in peace, Sheena. As you wrote in one of your last messages to me, “it’s arse”.

Once again, you were bang on the money.

Sheena’s family are raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support in her name. You can donate right here.

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