'A determined optimist': Ferrari Press Agency's Geoff Garvey dies at 70

Geoff Garvey, the freelance journalist who ran the Ferrari Press Agency for 30 years, has died aged 70.
 
Geoff, who was chief crime correspondent on the Evening Standard for much of the 1990s, broke the story that the former Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Allan Green had been arrested for kerb crawling.
 
The hard-working reporter was never "off duty" and was always on the lookout for a story.
 
As well as running the agency, Geoff also had a regular Saturday shift on the Sunday Mirror newspaper.
 
Geoff could easily have spent many years on a national paper but preferred running the agency.
 
He helped many keen young reporters get their first shifts in Fleet Street, often leading to staff jobs.
 
Long before computers, mobile phones, and social media, Geoff relied on the tried and tested methods of great contacts and a nose for a story.
 
He normally worked with just one or two young trainees, from a modest office in Sidcup, Kent – above a travel agents – although the agency always retained its name Ferrari of Dartford.
  
Reporters would cut their teeth covering court cases, tribunals, crimes and other news stories on the patch.
 
New arrivals were told that press releases from councils and charities were not to be wasted.
 
If there was no story in the release they should not be thrown into the bin – the blank pages on the other side could be used to type copy on.
 
Once stories were written or typed up, they were placed in a small box above the fridge for future reference.
 
Among Geoff’s greatest assets was a refusal to give up. He was a determined optimist. Persistence was one of his professional hallmarks – a trait he developed from childhood.
 
He was brought up by his mother in the tough Royal Naval port of Chatham on the banks of the River Medway in Kent.
 
In 1959 he secured a place at Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, a grammar school for boys in Rochester – known as the Rochester Maths School.
 
Described as a shy and quiet boy at school, friends were surprised when he was offered a job as a trainee reporter on the Chatham News newspaper when he was just 16.
 
However, the paper would not take him on until he turned 17. To earn money in the meantime Geoff took a job with British Rail as a clerk in a goods depot in Gravesend for six months.
 
On his 17th birthday he joined the Chatham News. It was the start of an amazing career in journalism.
 
While working on the local paper the young reporter began to show signs of being an entrepreneur to boost his income.
 
The thriving music scene of the early 60s inspired the young Geoff Garvey to dabble with music management.
 
He set up a talent night at the Rochester Casino Rooms – a well known music venue in the Medway Towns– where promising bands could turn up and play for the packed crowd with the hope of getting a manager like Geoff to look after them and get them a recording contract.
 
One night a friend of Geoff’s turned up with his band hoping Geoff would manage them.
 
They set up on stage and started to perform. But horrified Geoff pulled the plug on the band halfway through a song.
 
The bemused friend asked Geoff why he had stopped them playing.
 
Geoff replied: “Sorry, you were awful. And if I were you I’d get rid of that singer.”
 
The singer – apparently – was one David Bowie.
 
Clearly not cut out for pop music management, Geoff was better off sticking with the career path he was good at – journalism.
 
After completing his indentures on the Chatham News, Geoff had his first spell at Ferrari Press Agency under the legendary Lino ‘Dan’ Ferrari.
 
He then joined the Kensington Post. One friend joked that Geoff probably only took the job so he could get freebie meals at upmarket restaurants in the locality in return for reviews in the paper.
 
He then joined The Press Association as a reporter.
 
In 1969 Geoff was offered the opportunity to buy the Ferrari Press Agency.
 
It was a purchase that would bring him huge success and satisfaction in the decades that followed.
 
In 1990 Geoff was offered what he joked was a "proper" job.
 
He had been approached by the Evening Standard to join them as chief crime correspondent.
 
He threw himself wholeheartedly into the role – relishing the fact his byline was finally appearing with his stories – which often isn’t the case when providing agency copy.
 
Sadly, in the mid 1990s, Geoff was diagnosed with a heart condition which ultimately forced him to leave the Standard.
 
However, the condition proved to be manageable and he went back to freelancing from home.
 
It was the beginning of an exciting new period of Geoff’s life.
 
He made contact with Australian magazine Woman's Day and was hired to read through the first editions of the British national papers each night, listing celebrity and Royal stories the magazine might be interested in following up.
 
He would then ring the offices in Sydney to discuss the list.
 
The contact in Sydney he would telephone each night was Diane Blackwell – Di to her friends.
 
The pair struck up a good rapport and fell in love on their phone calls across the other side of the World from each other – Di also loved his “puns and humour”.
 
Geoff decided to fly to Sydney to meet his clients – but more importantly Di.
 
Soon after they became an item, with Geoff travelling to Australia and Di flying over to the UK.
 
Di came to live in London and the couple married in 1997 in Sidcup.
 
Geoff's health improved further with married life and he decided to use two of his other passions – history and trains – to earn a living alongside journalism.
 
He trained as a tour guide in Greenwich, taking tourists around the historic town.
 
This led to Geoff becoming a tour manager on international train journeys, leading groups of British tourists across Europe.
 
It also enabled him to share his lifelong love of France with others.
 
And as a passionate amateur cook he would gain inspiration from his travels for meals to cook on his return home.
 
Geoff’s health deteriorated in 2012. But despite lengthy spells in hospital hismobile phone and contacts book remained  constantly by his side. Again, he was never off duty.
 
Geoff passed away peacefully at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich on the evening of March 6.
 
He leaves behind his wife Diane, children Antony and Sue and four grandchildren.
 
He was greatly admired and respected by so many in the industry and will be sadly missed.
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