BBC staff remembered Komla Dumor as a man who made a big impression – personally and professionally – at an impromptu memorial gathering near Broadcasting House on Monday lunchtime.
They packed out All Souls Church, with several rows of people standing at the back, as they paid their respects to the 41-year-old World News presenter, who died suddenly on Saturday after a suspected heart attack.
Peter Horrocks, director of global news, was the first to speak, warmly recalling how Dumor would always call him ‘boss’ despite his protestations to the contrary.
‘He blazed a path for so many others,’ said Horrocks of Dumor’s rise from a radio show in Ghana to a globally-respected journalist with wide-reaching influence.
Horrocks also announced plans to establish a bursary or foundation in Dumor’s memory for aspiring African journalists.
A series of moving tributes followed from Dumor’s closest friends and colleagues – and there seemed to be much crossover between the two – which highlighted the Ghanaian’s impact.
‘He did not call me ‘boss’,’ said Solomon Mugera, head of the African Service. ‘He called me ‘chief’.’
Several speakers recalled that they had been told to ‘look after’ him when he first arrived in the UK but that he soon became more like a ‘big brother’, looking out for them instead.
Liliane Landor, controller of languages at global news, described him as a man ‘big in stature, intellect and heart’.
Whether recalling ‘bear hugs that would suck the life out of you’, his ‘warm smile’ or his ‘playfulness’, Dumor’s colleagues painted a picture of a much-loved man with an infectious personality.
But what also emerged was the immense respect that colleagues had for his role as an African journalist, as well as how seriously he handled the responsibility that came with it.
‘A man for whom Africa was not just a story, it was what he was about,’ said fellow presenter George Alagiah.
‘He epitomised the new Africa, the changing Africa. He found a way of telling Africa’s story in all its diversity,’ he added.
The gathering ended with the singing of Asimbonanga (We Have Not Seen Him), a song originally about Nelson Mandela and chosen because of Dumor’s respect for the former South African leader.
His funeral is due to be held in his home city of Accra, Ghana, while another formal memorial service will be held in London.
Staff are invited to write tributes to or memories of Dumor in condolence books, one of which can be found in the Broadcasting House reception, with others placed in the ground floor newsroom and Zone A – near the collaboration areas – on both the 3rd and 5th floors.