Bickley Mandolin virtuoso loses cancer battle

PUBLISHED: 15:22 20 October 2010

Talented Alison Stephens with her mandolin

Talented Alison Stephens with her mandolin


One of the world’s leading classical mandolin players has lost her battle with cancer.

Alison Stephens, who was born in Southborough Road, Bickley, died on October 10, aged 40.

She was widely considered as the UK’s leading exponent of the classical mandolin, broadcasting frequently on BBC Radio 3 and 4 as well as Classic FM.

Miss Stephens, a professor at Trinity College of Music, London, started her musical career in the choir of St Marks School, in Aylesbury Road, Bickley, before going on to Bromley High School, in Blackbrook Lane and then to Jane Allen’s Girls School, in Dulwich.

Miss Stephens’ father, Arthur, was himself an accomplished mandolin player who played his instrument while fighting in World War Two, like the hero in Louis de Bernières’s novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

When he died, when she was just seven-years-old, Alison asked to play the instrument her father had left behind.

The virtuoso’s mother Jackie Green, 71, said: “Ali was the most caring daughter I could have wished for. She was not just a talented musician, she was my baby.

“When she told me she wanted to be a professional musician I took a deep breath and said she had to learn another instrument and do well in her O levels and A levels.”

Miss Stephens made her national debut on stage at the Barbican when she was 17-years-old, a performance Mrs Green called “a very proud moment indeed”.

After her debut Miss Stephens went on to become the first graduate in the mandolin from Trinity Music College and recorded music for the Hollywood adaptation of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, working closely with novelist de Bernières himself.

Alison’s brother Andy, 43, who lives in Cameron Road, Bromley, said he will always remember his sister as a committed professional.

He said: “Ali was absolutely dedicated to the mandolin. She would practise for six or seven hours everyday.

“She didn’t try to be what everyone wanted her to be, she was her own person and she put her heart and soul into the mandolin.”

Miss Stephen was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2008 and raised £25,000 for cancer charities while undergoing treatment for the disease, even running a 10k fun run in May this year.

Despite successful treatment the cancer returned and in June she discovered that it had spread to other parts of her body. Alison is survived by her partner Mitchell Harris, with whom she lived in Cambridge, a half-brother and her half-sister.

She requested that everybody coming to her funeral, on November 5 at Cambridge Crematorium at 3pm, should wear orange and that pink is banned.

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