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Howard Stephen Coggins
August 2nd 1971 - November 1st 2023


Howard Coggins hated euphemistic terms for death. “Passed away” infuriated him. “Passed” was even worse.


So, he’d probably prefer it if we told you that Howard Coggins, the Actor, Husband, Father, Brother and Brother-In-Law, Co-Founder of Living Spit and Co-Writer, Producer and performer of eighteen Living Spit shows, has died after a short illness. He was 52 years old.


There were other things he hated. Here are a few of them: 


  • Traffic warning signs that ineffectually flashed you a notification of your speed without actually doing anything about it.

  • Pretention of any sort, especially that of pompous, self important people. 

  • People who call actors “ac-TORS”.

  • Opera, which he literally could not listen to without laughing.

  • Rehearsals, which filled him with anxiety, especially in the final week or so leading up to opening night.

  • Ketchup, which made him feel physically sick.

  • People who wear a Dryrobe© as an outdoor coat.

  • People who wear active wear out in public, to, say, a shop.

  • The phrases “It’s not all about you!” and “It’s all good!”

  • Portmanteu words such as “Brexit” or “Guesstimate”.

  • Board games or any sort of competitive sport or leisure activity.

  • Winter (post-Christmas) 


But there were also many, many things he loved. Here are a few of them:


  • His family, passionately.

  • His friends, wholeheartedly.

  • The drumming of Ringo Starr.

  • The solo work of Paul McCartney.

  • The Beatles in general.

  • Dusk (his favourite time of day).

  • Dogs, indiscriminate of breed, age, colour or temperament. 

  • The song “Together in Electric Dreams” by Phil Oakey and Georgio Moroder (it got him every time).

  • His electric bicycle.

  • Guitars, and watching “Rig Rundown” on Youtube.

  • Spring/ Summer (he’d crack out the shorts on the first sunny day of the year, usually around March or April and wouldn’t go back to trousers until about mid-October)

  • Succulent plants, of which he had a treasured jungle in his back garden.

  • DIY, especially making useful things out of wood.

  • Birkenstocks.

  • His beloved camper van and being away in it.

  • Comedy, especially Morecambe and Wise, the League of Gentlemen and Inside No.9.

  • The TV shows “Death in Paradise”, “Endeavour” and “The Repair Shop”.

  • Being outdoors.

  • The colour orange.

  • Painting his big toenail, and as his interest in this pastime increased, painting all his toenails.

  • Minis, and driving like a maniac in them: “That’s how they’re meant to be driven, Stu!

  • Golden Grill (a Clevedon-based Kebab shop).

  • Swimming in Clevedon’s Marine Lake, which he did often, even when it was freezing.

  • The music of They Might Be Giants.

  • Living Spit fans (especially the crazy ones!).

  • “Sharpe”, both the series of Bernard Cornwell books and the TV series starring Sean Bean.


There are many, many more. 


Howard and I spent an unfathomable amount of time together. We would rehearse and perform together, write together, travel up and down the country together, and see each other socially when we weren’t working.

I can’t believe we still find so many things to talk about, Stu!” and “I can’t believe we still get on so well, Stu!” were his common, astonished announcements.


Walking down the street with him in Clevedon, even just for a short distance, would take an age. He would stop for, or be stopped by, almost every person he would pass, and a 5-10 minute catch-up would ensue. He knew EVERYONE and would always make the time to talk to them.


He had a fantastic laugh. He laughed generously, raucously and frequently. If you were in a show and your friend Howard came along to see it, the walls would shake as his huge, sonorous laugh reverberated around the theatre. Especially if you were dancing in it.


He was born in Backwell in August 1971 to parents, Steve and Pat. In adolescence he discovered a talent and a passion for acting. After training at (coincidentally like every other member of Living Spit) the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Howard went straight into professional work and had barely been out of it since, being much in demand across the industry for his terrific range and dexterity. We, at Living Spit, frequently drew upon his wide and varied TV career to comic effect in our shows (“the Face of the National Lottery”, anyone?). 


In the day to day running of Living Spit, we discovered that, added to his acting abilities, Howard was also a talented planner-aheader, with a singular sense of direction and purpose about the future, which we all envied. He was always the guy saying “we really should be thinking about what we’re doing the year after next…


Howard and I started Living Spit together in 2012. Born out of the frustration of playing bit parts in other peoples shows, a passion for comedy and a desire to have more control over our careers. Together we dreamed, planned, schemed and plotted eighteen theatre shows and clocked up thousands of hours of stage time together. 

In our best moments, we could read each others every thought, and we each knew exactly how the other would react in a given moment and what we’d do next. This kind of theatrical telepathy is extremely rare in our business, and I count myself very lucky to have experienced it with such a consummate and generous performer as Howard, and for so long.


We truly were brothers. Both onstage and off. In 2015, I became his brother in a very real sense when I fell in love with and married his sister, Megan. This sort of thing, perhaps, would upset the equilibrium or many a friendship/ colleagueship, but Howard took it in his stride. After a half-hearted warning to us both and an assurance that we were serious, he quickly and quietly adjusted to the new arrangement, and things continued in much the same way as before.


I was a young actor when I first met Howard in 1997, untrained, and wet behind the ears. We appeared together in “Up the Feeder, Down the Mouth and Back Again”, a musical about the history of Bristol’s docks and dockworkers. Howard took me under his wing, gave me advice and generously (considering I was nine years his junior) included me in any cast antics or banter that was going on. Later, in 2003, we appeared as the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion, respectively, in The Wizard of Oz at the Hall for Cornwall. The Tin Man and Dorothy were doing a fair bit of mucking around onstage, which as professionally-minded people who cared deeply about the audiences experience, infuriated both Howard and I. We bonded over this shared irritation and spent many car journeys to and from the theatre ranting to each other about the injustice of it all.

This was the beginning of the next twenty years of ranting to each other on car journeys about perceived injustices and things/people we found annoying.

These are the things I will miss the most about Howard. The small, seemingly inconsequential exchanges that make up a friendship.


I’ll miss him onstage every night, as a partner, but I’ll miss his friendship more. I’ll miss being able to text him a shit joke and have him reply with a laugh emoji, or a humorous retort of his own, eclipsing mine in it’s darkness and hilarity. Or throwing him an obscure line that I know only he will find funny. Indeed, it has often been said by our peers that we would seem to speak a private language with each other, full of in-jokes and oblique references, to the exclusion of all others. When you find someone you can share that sort of bond with, you cling to them, as I did, and relax in the comfort of each other. For me, being with Howard was like sliding on the most comfortable pair of slippers ever. I knew I could be a pure, unfiltered version of myself.


Howard generously shared so much with me. His family, his career, his time, his humour, his musicality, his worries and cares, his likes and dislikes (see above). If I was out of work, he would make inquiries and ask around, telling directors how good I was and that they should hire me. When I was dropped by my agent, he immediately called his and said “Stu’s unrepresented! Get him on your books!”. Which she did.


I’ll miss making him laugh and I’ll miss him making me laugh. I’ll miss his hugs and his beautiful face.


But aside from his effect on my life, Howard’s life has positively affected the lives of thousands of others. Through his work he has brought immeasurable amounts of laughter, warmth and joy. He poured his heart into everything he did onstage. Watching him work, it was difficult not to feel your pain soothed, to feel your cares and worries melt away. He made it all ok, and the world is a darker place without him. 


In his last months, Howard expressed a wish that Craig, Trimmo, Ali and I continue Living Spit in his honour. So that’s what we’ll do. Every performance, every joke, every laugh, every tear, every song will be for him.


Don’t fuck it up, Howard. And I’ll try not to be shit.


Howard leaves behind his wife of 23 years, Kirstyn, and daughter, Betty, 15.


Stu Mcloughlin.

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