FRIENDS and colleagues have this week paid tribute to a ‘larger than life’ character, who was familiar to generations of Ilkeston families.
DJ, former record shop owner and taxi firm manager Alan Parkes – known to everyone as Big Al – died on Tuesday July 19 after a short illness, aged 57.
Best known in Ilkeston for decades for his party entertainment, lifelong friend Allen Fleckley, 48, said Mr Parkes was much more than just a DJ.
“If you met him, you didn’t forget him,” he said.
“He loved his music and he loved his friends.
“He wasn’t just a DJ, he was one of Ilkeston’s best entertainers.”
At his funeral last Wednesday, more than 200 mourners could not fit into a packed St Thomas Church in Nottingham Road during the service, such was his popularity in the town.
And nearly 700 people have joined a Facebook tribute page to the father-of-three.
Allen met Kirk Hallam-born Mr Parkes when they were both at school – Allen then at Dallimore and Mr Parkes at Gladstone Boys School.
Even as a teenager Mr Parkes entertained the masses, DJ-ing at Kirk Hallam Social Club’s junior disco.
After a spell as a chef at Stanton Ironworks, Mr Parkes returned to music with his mobile disco business in the 1970s playing countless weddings, birthdays and other events.
Friend of more than 25 years Darren Rowley explained: “He would play a wedding, then he’d play the daughter’s 18th and then her wedding too.
“He was larger than life and he’ll be sorely missed.”
He went on to play Ilkeston venues, including Crockers, Christies and the Concorde Club as well as clubs further afield in and around Nottingham, Derby and Doncaster during the 1980s and 1990s.
“He’s responsible for a lot of DJs in Ilkeston – if you wanted to start out in the business, Big Al was the man to see,” said Allen, now a radio DJ in Cornwall.
In 1988 Mr Parkes started Big Al’s Records on South Street, Ilkeston, where he worked with Darren until shortly before the shop closed in the late 1990s.
For the last five years he has been a line manager at A2B taxis in Kimberley.
Owner Steve Austin said: “Nobody had a bad word for him.
“He was honest and loyal and always there to help.
“It’s a massive loss personally and as a colleague as well.”
Two months ago he was given a DJing slot on Amber Sound FM in Ripley and was performing regularly at the Sir John Warren pub in Ilkeston Market Place.
Mr Parkes leaves three children Lorna, 10, Grant, 15 and Greg, 19.
He remained close to his ex-wife Karen Smedley, of Heanor.
Allen and friends are planning a tribute night in September in Mr Parkes’s honour.