Josie May Kemp, Sankey's 2013 – 2015 (January 2018)

Josie May Kemp

19.01.1996 – 17.01.2018 – two days short of 22 years, that was the span of the short life of our daughter Josie.  

We had known her to be brave, determine, incisive, inquisitive, artistic, honest, independently minded, humorous with a big personality.

Josie had been diagnosed aged 9  with an extremely rare but benign tumour in her upper jaw. It was surgically removed; however it returned when she was 15 but was now malignant and very aggressive. She was referred to the Royal Marsden where she underwent radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy followed by a lull when it seemed possible that we may have hit stability.

Josie was now 17 having lost a whole year to intense treatment following her GCSE’s. This was one of the moments when in a particularly severe battle when we might have lost her, the tumour appeared to have died.    An opportunity arose at short notice for Josie to take her A-levels at Lancing. A new start with a new peer group at the school.  

She made new friends and added something different to the community because of what she had been through though she always hid this as far as possible not wishing to be defined by the cancer. Probably the years of facing her mortality in one so young gave her an unusually mature view of life and so she was always ready to support others. She loved working on the farm. She enjoyed the atmosphere of the Art School and the routine gave her focus and stability.

She started off taking Photography, Art & History, but repeated medical appointments meant she had to drop History. Her Upper Sixth year started with another recurrence and the Autumn term was lost. Despite this she persevered with her Photography and Art achieving A grades in both.  

Outside of Lancing Josie continued to work at Cyberdog – a rave fashion shop in Brighton’s North Laines. On Saturdays after school we picked her up and in the course of the car journey she transformed out of uniform into a rave diva for her shift!



Fashion was a huge part of her life as a facet of personal expression. She was considering a career in bespoke men’s fashion. She had a broad appreciation of contemporary music, film and all other art forms. Her humour was renowned along with her impersonations.

Josie always had a love of Japan and managed to travel there three times. She was intrigued by the culture, loved the cuisine and even stated learning Japanese.   She was able to conjure up sushi and other delicacies which often were vegan.

Josie was not in a position to take on normal work having left Lancing, but the school recognising her abilities offered her a role ‘Artist in Residence’ which included running a Wednesday afternoon ceramics workshop and helping as needed. She would speak to anyone who wanted to talk about Art and life, but she was not a push-over.   If a student was fooling about too much, she was known to grab the clay and mash it up and deliver a forthright ultimatum that they had just insulted the clay and she wouldn’t accept it for firing!

Over the years Josie had skirted death many times. For her to die so unexpectedly following a relatively routine operation heightened the shock. We believe the cause was the treatment which had been keeping her alive, but which had been doing so at some expense.  

Her funeral service was in the Chapel – a formal service in the Crypt on the Friday night and the main one in the main chapel on the Saturday. Both were full which was a marvellous tribute to her and comfort to us. She leaves an enormous hole not only in our lives, but many others too as we come to terms with life without her.