Tribute to Sara Coward, Archers actress and Samaritans volunteer

Samaritans volunteers have been paying tribute to Archers actor and fellow volunteer Sara Coward, who has died aged 69.

Sara, who played Caroline Sterling for nearly four decades in the Radio 4 series, started volunteering at Stratford-upon-Avon branch in 2009.

“Listening to Sara on the phone was like a masterclass in how to talk to a caller,” says fellow Stratford volunteer, Caroline.

“She was so good at empathising with people and getting them to open up and talk.

“Very occasionally a caller would recognise her voice and ask: ‘Aren’t you in The Archers?’ but Sara was always able to sidestep the question and gently bring the topic of conversation back to the caller”.

Sara, who was also a writer and stage actor, was able to juggle her acting commitments with her Samaritans shifts very successfully. She was also the Fundraising Officer at Stratford for several years and raised around £30,000 for the branch.

She persuaded fellow Archers actors to appear for free in fundraising shows with her, and among other activities successfully managed two Samaritans pop up charity shops in Stratford in 2012 and 2014.

 “Shoppers never walked out without buying something when Sara was there,” says Caroline. “She had a wonderful way with people and everyone warmed to her.”

Sara, who last appeared in the Archers in September 2016, spent the last months of her life trying to make the world a kinder place. From her hospice bed in Warwickshire, she launched a campaign called Sm:)e, asking people to be nicer to each other by carrying out spontaneous acts of kindness, and smiling at strangers.

Sara hoped to build 1000 miles of smiles and asked people to send in their smiles on social media. Her campaign is growing every day.

“Sm:)e  was very important to her in her last weeks and is really taking off,” said Caroline. “It wasn’t about fundraising this time; she just wanted people to be kinder to each other, and it’s a wonderful legacy to leave.”

Said fellow volunteer, Katie: “Sara will be greatly missed by many, many people, especially at the branch. It’s so very sad that she has gone.”