The father of the late children's television presenter Mark Speight spoke today of his ambition to create the biggest artistic children's charity in Britain in memory of his "beautiful" son as he marked the first anniversary of his death.

Oliver Speight said there had been an outpouring of love and grief from both children and adults following his 42-year-old son's suicide by hanging at Paddington railway station in west London in April last year.

The popular BBC SMart art show presenter had taken his life after he had been "devastated" by the drug-related death of his 31-year-old fiancee Natasha Collins months earlier.

Speaking to promote SP8 of the Art - the Mark Speight Foundation, set up in his son's memory, to foster artistic skill and talent in children, Mr Speight, 71, spoke of the "sense of purpose" he had gained since his son's death.

He said regional centres had been set up across the UK by the foundation and his "dream" was to open the Mark Speight School of Art and Entertainment in London in memory of his "beautiful son."

He said: "Everybody recognises that we are not going to stop until we achieve our goal, we are going to smash down every door that stands in our way, in three years, I want this to be the biggest artistic children's charity in Britain.

"It is because I want the power for the children."

Mr Speight, a property developer from Sutton Coldfield, said more than 26,000 emails of condolence had been received through the BBC and to himself following the news of his son's death with thousands more "hits" on the foundation website after the launch of the charity in November.

He said: "I feel that I am working with him to produce what he wanted to do. What I feel he is saying to me right now is 'keep going because you are finishing off what I wanted to do myself'.

"I am sure he is wishing now that he was here to do this because he would never, ever have imagined how much he was loved by these children and how it has gone like a flower opening up.

"This is unstoppable."

The foundation aims include seeking out future artistic skills and talent in children aged between four and 18 years old in a range of art forms including portraiture, landscape, fashion design, architecture, graphic design, sculpture and modern art.

Dubbing the foundation "Speight's Dad's Army" Mr Speight said too much artistic

talent was being suppressed in children or parents were simply failing to recognise their children's gifts.

He said: "I think in all conscience, society has a thirst for art and I think a lot of children have been suppressed - their artistic talent has been hidden or their families perhaps have either not had time to recognise it, or perhaps have been too involved in things like the credit crunch or controlling drugs to be able to deal with it."

Describing the year since his son died, Mr Speight said: "It has been exciting, it has been a revelation, it has been full of humility and it has been a great sense of purpose and it has made me focus on what my life is all about and it is this foundation."

In his interview, Mr Speight said he had rung his son on his mobile the day before had taken his life to find out how he was.
He had known his son was "really down" and during the course of the conversation, he said, he had started to "lift him" and eventually "picked him up."

Mark's last words to him were "It's ok dad, fine, see you", he said.

He described the day the news of the discovery of his son's body was broken to him by a police liaison officer, six days after he was first reported missing.

"There was a knock on the door and I knew, and I looked at him, and I knew in his face, he did not say anything. I said 'you have found him haven't you?' and he said 'yes' and I said 'he is dead isn't he?' and he said yes.

"I said 'tell me how he died' and he said 'he hanged himself'.

"... I wanted to go and hug him, to give him compassion because I could see in him that feeling of desperate emotion at having to say that to a parent. I felt for him."

He said at that point he could not allow himself to cry - not that he didn't want to - but because he had to "gather" himself in order to break the news of the "terrible, terrible, almost an accident" to rest of the family.

He said his son's actions had been "courageous" - regardless of whether it was right or wrong - but he thought "what a pity he could not pick the phone up".

"I would like to have had a chat to him, I would like to have been there really, to hold his hand, to talk him out of it," he said.

He said his advice for parents who lose a child through suicide was to "try to smile and to think of all the positive and beautiful things that their children have done in their life."

Looking back on his memory of his son, whom he said "adored" children, he described him as a "Peter Pan who never grew up and the Pied Piper who led children on a magical mystery tour of art".

He said: "That is how I shall remember him because that is exactly how it was."