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Lives Remembered - Saph Wright

Monday, 21 August 2017

Saph Wright, 46, passed away on the 9 August 2017 after a long and courageous fight against a rare illness. Leaves behind three children Janthina (26), Zebedee (19), Elias (18) and grandson Ezra (8) as well as mother Laura, sisters Isolde and Evania and grandmother Sheila. Memorial service to be held at the Birchcliffe Centre on Thursday 24th August at 1.30pm.

Saph Wright

Sapphira Rebekah Wright, much better known as Saph, was born in Oxford in 1971 but moved to Hebden Bridge at the age of seven. She became a pupil at Hebden Royd CofE School in 1978. She started violin lessons at school  later that year and her joint passions for music and teaching soon became apparent. Within a very short time she was doing violin solos in the school concerts.

Violin and piano

When she left primary school in 1982 she was awarded a special prize for "all her help with the little violinists" during that year. She was also admitted to Calderdale Music School and played in the junior orchestra. After a few years she began to beg for a piano too and, once she had one, began lessons, first with Ronald Eveleigh in  Heptonstall, then with James Stansfield  in  Hebden Bridge. She made rapid progress. 

From 1982 -1987 she attended Calder High School. By the age of sixteen she was already giving violin and piano lessons to family friends. From 1987-1989 she went to Crossley Heath School in Halifax. She was a member of the Calderdale Youth Symphony orchestra for many years, travelling to Halifax Nova Scotia on an exchange with the youth orchestra there in 1987.


Her love of music also manifested itself in a love of dance, and she attended Creative Dance classes run by Calderdale for many years, participating  until she left school. This skill was later exemplified by her crazy interpretive dancing at social events, well remembered by her friends. 


She went on to study Jazz and Popular Music at Leeds College of Music for three years before taking a PGCE, finally becoming  a fully qualified music teacher. She worked first in Bradford then in  2003 she got a job teaching as head of music at Shuttleworth College in Burnley. She was widely regarded as an inspirational teacher. She not only got young people interested in music, but also, in the words of many of them "taught them to be me." 


Many students saw her as a friend and advisor  as well as their teacher. She was nominated for the Best Teacher in Britain award and also won a community award in Burnley which involved having a giant sized photograph of herself projected onto an old  mill chimney - she found it highly amusing to be honoured in this way.


Along the way she also had three children, a daughter Janthina and sons Zebedee and Elias, and later she became a grandmother to Ezra, now eight, who was a source of great joy to her. 

Many people in Hebden will remember her as 'Saph the music teacher' as she carried on teaching piano and violin even whilst holding down her full time head of music post at the same time. 


She was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer in 2010. Ill health caused a major shift in Saph’s life and she was forced to give up her teaching career. Her strength and energy was much more limited but she was determined to keep going. She didn't let illness stop her passion for young people and music. She voluntarily invested what time and energy she had in community initiatives. 

Community initiatives 

The first, Fair for Youth started as celebration of the unveiling of the new skate park and was then made into a yearly event to encourage and celebrate youngsters. It aspired to empower young people to do things for themselves, allowing them to take the initiative and make their own decisions. Along with this Saph was involved with the Hebden Bridge Community PA, another empowering initiative which trained young people to run their own PA systems, as well as with Friends of Calder Holmes Park and the Park Life Cafe.

"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow."
Apart from her children and grandchild, her great love was her garden and she became an accomplished gardener, with a particular interest in growing organic fruit and vegetables. This became another passion, with a quote from Audrey Hepburn giving her enormous comfort in coming to terms with her illness: "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow."

Saph was a friend to many around the town. She will be remembered for her vibrancy and cheerfulness, her sense of humour and her generosity, as well as her devotion to her three kids. 


As our family grew over the years what we will remember most are the big celebrations we had several times a year for birthdays, Christmas and Bonfire Night. Saph was always the one to organise these and get the rest of her wayward family on task. 

When her great grandmother celebrated her ninetieth birthday in 2014, it was Saph’s suggestion for us all to take her to Paris. She took part in this trip with all her usual exuberance, taking endless photographs. Sadly, it is the photos of Saph herself now that we will all treasure. 

From Kinny

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Beautiful remembrance of Saph...

She did the summer playschemes on Hebden bridge park whilst she was doing A levels too.

Saph was so good at violin & piano that her neighbours, postmen and window cleaners begged her to play. She had a piano & violin by her side wherever she lived. The flat 3 floors up had a window taken out to get the beloved piano in. A true inspiration for so many all over.

Truly a Hebden Girl, even when she was in uni in Leeds, she came to Hebden everyday to teach our generations music. Xxx Kinny 

From Christian Thompson

Friday 25 August 2017

Saph was a Legend

We both went to Calder High. She was in the year below me - which pretty much meant that we weren't really destined to move in the same circles. But Saph was one of those kids who you somehow just noticed anyway. Maybe it was her name. Or her laughter. Or the glint in her eye.

Then I became best friends with a guy who was Saph's next door neighbour. He started 'going out' with her (or what passes for going out at that age - hanging out in the park, sharing 2 litres of strongbow, making mix tapes for each other) so I got to know her better during that time.

Then he dumped her. I thought he was insane, obviously.

Me and Saph saw no good reason to stop hanging out together just because of this. It wasn't awkward. Well, it was a bit - but we both thought awkward was somehow hilariously cool.

She was a natural teacher. She taught me C, F and G triads on the piano and how to start adding the root note with my left hand. She improved my French by sometimes insisting on speaking nothing else for excruciating lengths of time. She tried to teach me to dance.

And she was wise. She could patiently explain why a certain course of action just wasn't going to work - but could also agree that, nonetheless, it was still the morally right thing to do. 

We went down to London together. It is a fond memory now because, at the time, we felt very grown up, independent and cultured. Mature beyond our years. I think we were 16 and 17.

As our futures called to us, we went our separate ways. We saw each other less and less with each passing year. It was always a pleasure  to bump into her over the decades in random places around Calderdale but it is now with great regret that I settled for this and didn't make a conscious effort to spend more time with such an inspirational, joyful person.

I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the memorial. I wish her family all the best for their future and hope they continue to take comfort in knowing how many lives she touched and made better by doing so.

Christian x

From John Billingsley

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

On behalf of Hebden Bridge Library, we remember Saph as an antertaining and valued colleague in the 1990s. Sorry to lose her smile from the town…

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