Tributes to a real gent

DOZENS of tributes have been paid to a talented musician who died in a tragic accident in Heckmondwike.

Andy Banks was well-loved across the area as a passionate performer and artist, faithful friend and a proud father.

Mr Banks, 49, played with bands including Eric the Viaduct and Ship of Fools. It is he believed he died when he fell into a drain while trying retrieve dropped keys in King Street, Heckmondwike.

Police were called at 12.16am on Wednesday. Neighbours said seven police cars, a video van and a winch were at the scene as well as the special rescue unit from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Mr Banks, a sculptor, had been at the Swan in Liversedge on New Year’s Day and was thought to be walking home when he dropped his keys.

Eric the Viaduct was the group he was perhaps best known for working with. The eccentric band, which members describe as having ‘all the fun of the fair’, is hugely popular in the area. Members play plastic trumpets, a handmade 
violin and a kazoo.

They play venues including the West Riding and Dewsbury Socialist Club, as well as the Crown of Lights Music Events in Heckmondwike.

Peter Earnshaw, who helps organised the Heckmondwike gigs, said: “[He was] a great musician and artist taken way too soon. I haven’t known Andy for that long but I had the privilege of playing with, and talking to him on numerous occasions and was certainly touched, not only by his great musicianship, but also by the immense passion he had for whatever

he was doing.”

Friend Sharon Brogden had known Mr Banks for about 20 years. She described a sensitive and generous man who had recently opened rehearsal rooms in Dewsbury, for bands to practise in.

“That’s something he decided to do, because that’s the sort of person he was. He was very genuine, very sensitive and very honest. I still can’t get my head round what’s happened,” she said.

Miss Brogden said Mr Banks was involved in many projects.

“It wasn’t his time to go. He had everything going. Everything seemed to be going well.”

Mr Banks was best-known for playing the mandolin, but also played banjo, flute and violin.

Tributes on social media websites described the huge musical skill of Mr Banks, a father-of-two, from Dewsbury.

Terry McKay said: “The man leaves a big and very impressive musical and political legacy to Dewsbury.”

Dylan Barry said Mr Banks was ‘one of life’s nice guys and a true gent.’

Michael Shepherd said: “A wise, intelligent and talented musician, artist, sculptor, thinker and father who loved life.

“His taste in literature, music and art was excellent and his home is a delightful collection of weird and wonderful objects.

“I remember in his youth he had the words, ‘We were born to go as far as we can fly,’ written on his bedroom wall, which I have never forgotten.”