Comedy booker dies in the Arctic

Tributes to 'Purple Cactus Phil'

Comedy promoter Phil Goodeve-Docker has died while attempting to cross the Greenland icecap.

He died on Sunday while trying to cross more than 350 miles of barren landscape. The exact circumstances of his death are not known, but his two travelling companions are in critical condition, but alive in hospital in Greenland

Before he set off on his month-long expedition, Phil – who ran the Purple Cactus booking agency – said: ‘This is one of the great polar challenges, through which we face such dangers as polar bears (not cute and cuddly), crevasses up to 500 metres deep, polar winds [and] temperatures of 5C to -50C.’

Arctic exploration ran in his family, as his late grandfather, Patrick Pirie-Gordon was an honorary vice-president of the Royal Geographical Society, helping fund polar explorations. It was in his memory that Phil took on the Greenland challenge, and had raised more than £4,000 for the Queen's Nursing Institute.

His connection with comedy started while still a student in 2001, when he started the Southampton University comedy society, striking a deal with Jongleurs comedy club to offer cheap tickets to students.

Comedian Garrett Millerick, who was his housemate at university, told Chortle: ‘This took dedication, effort and time… to convince Jongleurs, the uni and a large band of sceptical students that it could be done. He did it and scores of people kept being able to go and watch stand up every thursday.

‘With his spirits stirred he decided that the society should be something more and should be about people writing and performing comedy. I remember him trying to kick me into some action and announcing to my disinterested student self that I should do stand-up. It took me another eight years to take the man up on his challenge. Undeterred by my pessimism he went off flyering at lunchtimes to find students to come and try their hand.’

‘He decided to call his new society Chortle… our other flat mate Mike had to deliver the unfortunate news that another crowd of comedy loving entrepreneurs had recently bagged this moniker.

‘He was the perfect promoter, running a slick night, sold out crowd, and every one of his guys held there own. I remember marvelling at what he had achieved in such a short space of time. He was proud as punch of everyone he had convinced to try their hand and spent the night modestly hanging in the shadows letting everyone shine.

‘I have had the privilege of gigging in Southampton in the last few years and I'm certain that the vibrant 'can do' open mic circuit and student comedy scene in that town owes a massive debt of gratitude to Phil. There was certainly nothing of the sort before he came along.

He was a warm, generous, and incredibly supportive guy who gave a great start to so many people.’

After university, Phil set up Purple Cactus Comedy, running clubs in Hammersmith, West London, and Northwich, Cheshire, among others. As recently as last year, the company opened a night in Mayfair.

It also booked comedians for sports clubs, private parties, the Frome festival and corporate clients ranging from the Ministry of Defence to Specsavers.

Comic Adam Bloom said Phil was 'one of those magical, always happy people. Genuinely smiling all day and a true fan of comedy. He was one of my best friends'.

On April 16, Phil set off for Greenland with fellow adventurers Andy Norman and Roan Hackney. They had no other support and had to each pull 120kg of survival equipment on a pulk, an form of Arctic sledge.

This was the first time ‘Purple Cactus Phil’, who lived in Ealing, had embarked on any such adventure. Their departure from the Greenland town of Ammassalik was delayed last week because of a white-out storm and temperates of -25C.

His family posted the news of his death on Facebook yesterday. Their message read: ‘We wanted to let everyone know that on Sunday morning we had a phone call to confirm that Philip sadly died.

‘To our son, brother and friend, we are so glad that you were on your adventure and expedition that you had wanted to do for so long. You will be unbelievably missed and your memory cherished.’

Here is Phil's JustGiving page raising funds from the trip.

Published: 30 Apr 2013

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