Gill Stoker obituary

<span>Gill Stoker came relatively late in life to teaching, but her uncomplicated style made her a hit as an English tutor on YouTube.</span><span>Photograph: Paul Brown/Mary Evans Picture Library</span>
Gill Stoker came relatively late in life to teaching, but her uncomplicated style made her a hit as an English tutor on YouTube.Photograph: Paul Brown/Mary Evans Picture Library

My friend Gill Stoker, who has died aged 69 of a brain tumour, became one of the internet’s most popular teachers of English as a second language, attracting two million subscribers to her YouTube channel and reaching 31m views, so far, with her most popular lesson.

Her clear, uncomplicated style, allied to a deep understanding of her audience and a gentle authority, helped to make Gill’s lessons popular – and she never tried to be funny or ironic, so there were no distractions from the learning.

She began to teach on the internet in 2013, having spent 20 years as a tutor at colleges in south London, at the Open University and with private clients at her home.

Gill was born in Derby to Kenneth Watson, a local council clerk of works, and his wife, Martha (nee Davey). After leaving Homelands grammar school for girls at 18, she spent two years at secretarial college in Derby before moving to London in 1974. She had auditioned unsuccessfully at the Royal College of Music but resolved nevertheless to make her home in the capital.

After a year as a secretary at the quartz manufacturer Roditi International, she became office manager at the computer firm Sperry Univac, where she worked for a decade. In 1985 she took up a post as office manager at the Royal Opera House, until in 1988 she moved to become project administrator at the Essential Drugs Project, a charitable initiative to support better use of medicines across the developing world.

While working full-time she gained a degree in English (1982-86) followed by a master’s in English and American literature (1986-88) and a PhD in English and art history (1988-94), all at Birkbeck, University of London.

She then moved into part-time lecturing in adult education, teaching at Greenwich Community College and Lewisham College of Further Education throughout the 1990s. In 1999 she also became part-time data manager at the Mary Evans Picture Library, where she and I met, and where she came up with the idea of commissioning poets to submit poems inspired by images from its collection of three million pictures. It became the most popular section on the library’s website.

Gill was also then a part-time associate lecturer at the Open University, and in 2006 she moved into teaching English as a foreign language. In 2013 she hooked up with Joshua Kostka of the teaching website, and he launched her YouTube channel in 2015.

She was a member of the choir of All Souls, Langham Place, enjoyed creative writing, and appeared as a bit-part actor in a number of films. In 2004 she wrote a one-woman play, Essentially Ethel, about the composer Ethel Smyth, which she performed herself at venues around England.

Gill’s first marriage, to Timothy Cox, ended in divorce in 1983. Her second husband, the composer Richard Stoker, whom she married in 1986, died in 2021, and she established the Richard Stoker Trust in his memory, to support young musicians.

She is survived by her sister Vivien and three nieces, Caroline, Lynne and Beverley.