Michael Howells 1957 – 2018
I found out that Michael Howells had died via Instagram. On the Port Eliot website they posted a photo of a large paper elephant covered in paper flowers with the caption, “A very sad day. We are raising a glass to Michael Howells tonight, who brought so much wonder to the fest…” It was, to me, abrupt. A man whose Instagram account I had relished for the last couple of years. I must have first heard his name from one of the talented creative stylists at the interiors magazine.
His account was a magical mystery tour of English countryside, costumes as if made of spun sugar, friendship, sexy men in quixotic hats, changing seasons, theatrical set pieces and exotic travel. A veil of sadness delicately fell over me. A great light had gone out. I’d never even read an interview with the guy, never heard his voice or seen him on camera, yet I knew that Michael, and his lifestyle, his creative direction and perhaps even friends, resonated with me (I started following them). And watching him on Instagram, as he roamed far and wide and created his narrative, made me feel closer to him. As if I had once known him, or that I might we might meet in future and I would already know what to talk about. I was eager to go to the festival he had founded with other creative types but hadn’t yet organised it.
In his obituary in The Guardian they said he “exemplified old-style art-school virtues”. The quote that I took particularly to heart was about living in the moment and telling a friend about a party he organised, “Well, it lasted for eight hours, there were 1,000 people, so that’s 8,000 hours of memories.” He said he was paid to fantasise and as a fantasist myself, and someone who is throwing a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in August – with all the trimmings – I just loved everything he did. It made me want to climb into a pumpkin, bid farewell to reality and return only once morning had broken. What an original. Gutted I never cracked into his social circle.
They buried him in the rolling green English countryside.