Sam Organ: Television producer who worked on 'Tribe' and 'Amazon'

Sam Organ was a highly respected executive producer in British television whose work was regularly nominated for awards. Though he spent most of his career working in the BBC and rose to become deputy head of BBC Bristol, he was never a Birtist bureaucrat. Beneath a playful exterior he concealed steely determination. His film-making reflected his strong commitment to fairness, justice and tolerance. But there was nothing priggish about him, and his strong sense of fun was never far from the surface.

Organ joined the BBC in west London as a trainee in 1982, and made his mark on the then new Crimewatch programme. His early work as a documentary producer displayed both his creativity and his essential integrity. One memorable moment came in a 40 Minutes programme about London Lighthouse, when he handed the camera to a dying Aids victim. This sensitive gesture of respect to the individual being filmed was typical: Organ was the very antithesis of that type of modern producer who misrepresents his or her purpose in order to achieve a sensational effect.

For over a quarter of a century he worked on hundreds of documentaries, including the series Tribe and Amazon, which won a Bafta award. Young producers benefited from his steady guidance. Many of those who worked with Organ regarded him as a beacon for public service television. His high principles were matched by exacting standards: he insisted on correct grammar in scripts and abhorred jargon and waffle.

He inherited some of his endearing characteristics from his father, who had been a merchant seaman and became a Trinity House pilot; his mother was a teacher. The family lived near Harwich on the Essex coast, where the children enjoyed a Swallows and Amazons-type existence, sailing, swimming and playing games. With two older sisters, the young Sam was the baby of the family, adored by all – which perhaps helps to explain the boyishness which he retained to the end. At the age of eight Sam was sent off to board at Woodbridge School, from which he won a place to read PPE at Keble College, Oxford. Much later, Organ would reflect that he had spent most of his life in institutions: boarding-school, Oxford and the BBC. When he eventually left the Corporation in 1999, he joked that he was being "returned to the community".

Before going up to Oxford Organ spent six months working as a volunteer teacher in a Kenyan secondary school near the coast of the Indian Ocean. After matriculating with a first in 1982, he worked first as a researcher for the Labour MP Greville Janner, and then as a freelance radio journalist, before winning a place on the very competitive BBC trainee scheme. In the mid-1980s he began living in Camden with the writer Rose Shapiro, and their first daughter was born two years later. In 1989 they moved to Bristol, where a second daughter was born in 1993. Though he loved his work, he adored his family, and was both a proud father to Isabel and Judith and a devoted partner to Rose, whom he married in 2002.

In the previous summer Organ had collapsed while whale-watching on a family holiday in America, and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. Over the following years he bravely underwent three sets of brain surgery and a range of other treatments, some extremely unpleasant. He knew from the outset that the prognosis was not good, but was determined to make the best of the time that remained to him. In this he was lucky to be in the care of oncologist Dr Kirsten Hopkins at the Bristol haematology and oncology centre, who responded wholeheartedly to his resolve to live as long as he possibly could.

His courage and his cheerfulness throughout were both astonishing and inspiring; not for a single moment did he seem to surrender to self-pity. As the disease progressed Organ spent increasing and unwelcome time both in hospital and at St Peter's Hospice in Bristol.

He carried on working regardless. Rose would often find him with his Blackberry in one hand and a blood transfusion hooked up to the other. During his last chemotherapy session he held a conference call with colleagues in Cardiff, London and the United States, holding a hand-written sign politely asking the nursing staff if they would mind waiting until he had finished the call. Only one of those on the line had any idea that he was in hospital.

"Blubbing is allowed", he told his sister Kate at a particularly difficult moment. Organ's traditionally male qualities of stoicism, dignity, and reticence were balanced by his gentleness, sensitivity and lack of pomposity. He was an exceptional person: intelligent, mischievous and funny, with a gift for friendship. His gleeful relish in the absurdities of human existence was irresistibly infectious. His company lit up the lives of those lucky enough to have known him.

Adam Sisman

Sam Organ, television producer: born Colchester 5 April 1958; married 2002 Rose Shapiro (two daughters); died Bristol 14 April 2010.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities