The following text has been adapted from Ben Quinn’s piece ‘Brilliant and versatile’ Observer and Guardian journalist Sarah Hughes dies at 48, (The Guardian, 6th April 2021).
Sarah Hughes was a hugely respected Guardian and Observer journalist who died from breast cancer on the 5th April 2021 at the age of 48. Sarah’s work ranged from hard-hitting and acclaimed overseas reportage, to sport journalism covering horse racing and football, to the television and entertainment writing that she went on to specialise in. This included her hugely successful Game of Thrones blog for the Guardian, and also her episode recaps for TV shows Line of Duty and Peaky Blinders.
Vicky Frost, who was TV and radio editor at the Guardian when Sarah first persuaded her to commission increasingly popular episode-by-episode recaps for Game of Thrones and Line of Duty, said she had “a real fan’s eye” for the shows that people were going to get obsessed with.
“I think what makes her recaps so great is that she really watched shows as a fan and valued the conversation the recaps prompted. They really do embody that idea of watching telly with obsessive friends you’ve never met,” she added.
Sarah also had considerable experience in lifestyle journalism, writing regularly for the Guardian’s women’s pages and the Observer news desk. As well as the Guardian and Observer she regularly contributed to a variety of publications including the Independent, the Independent on Sunday, the I, the Telegraph and Metro
Sarah wrote a number of candid pieces for the Observer about her illness. In one article in the Observer magazine, she spoke of coping with cancer against the backdrop of lockdown, her love for Kris, Ruby and Oisin, and the advice she would give to any reader.
“Even in these depressing times try to find some part of the day that is worth relishing, whether it is a moment of beauty half-glimpsed outside, the joy found in escaping into a different world on page or screen, or the pleasure of dressing up for yourself and no one else because it makes you feel fine.”
- Sarah Hughes, ‘Find a part of each day to relish’: coping with cancer and Covid, the Observer, 15th November 2020
A version of this article, along with some of her most-loved columns appears in her book Holding Tight, Letting Go: My Life, Death And All The Madness In Between, a collection of essays on living with terminal metastatic cancer, supported with contributions by friends, and published in 2022 by Blink Publishing.
In 2004 she was shortlisted for an Amnesty International award for her reports with the photojournalist Kate Holt on abuses by UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“Sarah had a wonderful way of turning interviews from places like the DRC or Burundi into stories that people could relate to,” said Holt, who recalled her portrayal of the lives of teenage girls who were being forced to sleep with UN peacekeepers.
“Sarah carried this ability to see the world through others’ eyes and write eloquently on deeply emotional and complex subjects as her career and life developed.”
“She was a remarkably talented and versatile journalist, writing about TV, films, books, sport, and living life to the full, with insight, elegance and skill.”
- Paul Webster, editor of the Observer
“Sarah was a wonderful writer, who wrote brilliantly about TV, books and much else for the Observer and the Guardian. Her episode-by-episode recaps on Line of Duty, Game of Thrones and other shows helped redefine arts writing for the digital age, building warm and loyal communities around each. She also wrote powerfully about her illness.”
- Katharine Viner, Guardian editor-in-chief
“Her writing stood out as being inspired by a love of TV, stimulating others to feel the same and adding to her readers’ enjoyment of their favourite programmes.”
- Jed Mercurio, television writer, director and producer
“Sarah was such a champion of my work and a passionate generous advocate of TV. She was endlessly curious, hilarious and kind, an incisively brilliant and fearless writer. She will be so very missed.”
- Sarah Phelps, screenwriter and television producer
“She was a pleasure to work with, both in the office and virtually – she had a skill with a recap that is unsurpassed, the hundreds of adoring commenters were testament to that. She’ll be hugely missed.”
- Toby Moses, TV editor at the Guardian
Ben Quinn, Brilliant and versatile Observer and Guardian journalist dies at 48, the Guardian, Tuesday 6th April 2021
Kate Abbott, My tv bellweather, my wonderful friend - a tribute to Sarah Hughes, the Guardian, Tuesday 6th April 2021
Lisa Bachelor, Sarah Hughes, clever, brave, bold, funny - my unforgettable friend, the Observer, Sunday 11th April
Molloy Woodcraft, A brilliant writer and a formidble friend, the Guardian, Wed 14th April
Hephzibah Anderson, Holding Tight, Letting Go by Sarah Hughes - review, Lessons from a life well lived, the Observer, 27th March 2022
View Sarah’s Guardian page ︎︎
Sarah Hughes, ‘Find a part of each day to relish’: coping with cancer and Covid, the Observer, 15th November 2020
Sarah Hughes, What trashy novels taught me about life, the Observer, 31st January 2021
Sarah Hughes, Edna O’Brien interview, the Observer, 13 December 2020
Sarah Hughes, Julie Welch, Fleet Street’s first female football writer, 16th August 2020
Sarah Hughes, Motherwell, the Observer, 12th January 2020
Sarah Hughes, Game of Thrones, cancer and me…, the Observer, 7th April 2019
Sarah Hughes, How I lost my soul to the jump jockey Ruby Walsh, the Observer, 4th May 2019
Sarah Hughes, Lost literary masterpiece of 1960s black America comes to UK, the Observer, 27th October 2018
Sarah Hughes, My seven–year-old son the boxer, the Observer, 1st January 2017
Sarah Hughes, Losing Iris, the Observer, 22nd January 2012
Sarah Hughes, They call it the greatest TV series you’ve never seen, the Observer, 11th February 2007
Sarah Hughes, Time for women to strike back at neanderthals, the Guardian, 27th February 2000
Game of Thrones ︎︎
Line of Duty ︎︎
Peaky Blinders ︎︎