Celebration of life and work of former Gazette photographer Mike Foster

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Family and friends are mourning the loss of a former Gazette photographer whose lens captured more than three decades of Fylde coast news.

Mike Foster, who died last Friday in Blackpool Victoria Hospital, aged 68, covered high profile stories ranging from major fires on the Promenade to political conferences and end-of-season fireworks.

Mike Foster's image of the fire at the Fun House at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Mike Foster's image of the fire at the Fun House at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

But he was also well-known for the many community events he attended, camera at the ready to snap anniversaries, fundraisers and family milestones.

Mike, who worked at The Gazette from 1980 until his retirement in 2012, was born in Lincoln where he was a ball-boy for Lincoln City Football Club.

He followed his father and brother into the engineering industry but decided that was not the career path for him.

Instead, after marrying a journalist who bought him his first camera, he joined the Newark Advertiser where he trained as a newspaper photographer.

After a spell at the Nottingham Post, Mike moved to Blackpool and joined The Gazette.

The resort’s showbusiness scene proved a rich source of material and he became friends with Fylde-based stars such as the late Les Dawson, as well as singer Linda Nolan.

As a young man, he had had his own brush with music, playing drummer in a band which regularly crossed between Hull and Rotterdam. But it was newspapers which became his passion.

The Fun House fire at the Pleasure Beach in 1991, the Grab City fire in 2002 and the sinking of the Riverdance ferry in 2008 were among the incidents he caught on film.

Former Gazette women’s editor Libby Gomm, who was Mike’s partner for 25 years, said: “He absolutely lived and breathed newspapers.

“He was well-known on the Blackpool showbusiness circuit and became great friends with Les Dawson.

“Mike took one of the last photographs of Les with his daughter Charlotte before Les died.

“But he also covered a lot of big news events, such as the Pleasure Beach Fun House fire.

“He was so keen to get the best shot that the fire brigade had to tell him to come down from a ladder he’d climbed to get a better view.

“He also covered a lot of the political conferences in Blackpool.

“After his retirement, his interest in photography continued, and he also encouraged me in my photography.

“He was also a great friend and step-dad to my children Jon and Rob, and one of the happiest days of his life was when he became grandpa Mike to Indi, who is now nine months old.

“He was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, and he fought it very hard.”

Former colleague and friend Iain Lynn was mentored by Mike when he joined The Gazette as a junior photographer.

Iain, now North West Social Media Editor for Johnston Press, said: “Mike was an imposing figure physically and as a photographer in the press pack, he could look after himself.

“But his character was pretty much the opposite of that.

“He was quiet, polite, considered and had a great sense of humour.

“If you looked to him for advice, it was always considered.

“You had to coax things out of him, but it was always wisdom which made the advice more valuable.

“As a photographer, he taught me to look at other people’s work in order to learn, and as a picture editor he had a great eye.”

During his time at The Gazette, Mike rose to the position of deputy chief photographer, and on retirement was North West deputy picture editor.

He was also an active member of the National Union of Journalists and a member of the Labour Party.

Mike, who lived in Blackpool, leaves his partner Libby, step-sons Jon and Rob, daughter-in-law Natasha and grandaughter Indi.

His funeral will be held on Tuesday May 30 at 11.45am at Carleton Crematorium.

Donations in his memory will be for the continuing education of his sponsor child, Teddy Kipoche, at the Happy House, Kenya.