Kirsten O’Brien pays emotional tribute to late co-star Mark Speight

Kirsten O'Brien pays emotional tribute to late co-star Mark Speight

Kirsten O’Brien, a beloved children’s television presenter, took to social media on April 7, 2024, to honour the 16th anniversary of her co-star Mark Speight’s tragic suicide. The duo had worked together on the popular CBBC art programme SMart, where their on-screen rapport and camaraderie captivated young viewers across the nation.

Speight, who was 42 years old when he passed away, had been one of the original presenters on SMart since its debut in 1994. He poured his heart into the show for 14 years, mesmerising audiences with his love for art and his contagious enthusiasm. O’Brien, now 52, joined the programme in the late 1990s, and the pair quickly became a cherished staple on children’s television.

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In her heartfelt social media post, O’Brien shared a nostalgic photo of herself and Speight, accompanied by a moving caption that described him as a “gloriously funny man” who was “so loved.” The tribute struck a chord with fans, who inundated the comments section with their own recollections and expressions of appreciation for the joy and motivation the presenters had brought to their childhoods.

Tragically, Speight’s life took a harrowing turn in January 2008 when he found his fiancée, Natasha Collins, dead in the bath of their shared London flat. Although initially arrested on suspicion of murder, Speight was later exonerated of any charges. An inquest concluded that Collins had died from a drug overdose and severe burns from hot water, deeming her death a misadventure.

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Just months later, in April 2008, Speight vanished, leaving behind a nation in shock and grief. He was eventually discovered to have taken his own life near Paddington station, leaving behind two notes.

The devastating news fell on O’Brien to convey to CBBC’s young audience, a responsibility she later described as one of the most challenging moments of her career.

Speight’s premature death served as a jarring wake-up call about the significance of mental health awareness and support, especially for those in the public eye. His legacy endures through the countless lives he touched during his time on SMart, and the lasting impact he had on his colleagues, fans, and the children’s television industry as a whole.

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As Kirsten O’Brien commemorates this sombre anniversary, her tribute acts as a touching reminder of the unforgettable imprint Mark Speight left on the world. Though he may be gone, his memory continues to inspire and unite those who knew and loved him, both on and off the screen.

The outpouring of love and support from fans in response to O’Brien’s post is a testament to the enduring impact Speight had on a generation of children who grew up watching him on SMart.

The loss of Mark Speight was a tragedy that reverberated throughout the entertainment industry and beyond. It highlighted the immense pressure and scrutiny that public figures often face, and the toll it can take on their mental well-being.

In the years since his passing, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of prioritising mental health and providing support for those who may be struggling.

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