Sue Townsend's funeral is held in Leicester

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image captionThe family held a private cremation service after the public funeral

Hundreds of mourners have turned out for the funeral of author Sue Townsend in her home city of Leicester.

It began at the 1,500-seat De Montfort Hall at 13:30 BST and was shown on a big screen outside.

There was a collection of music and readings by friends and family, including Stephen Mangan, who played Adrian Mole in a TV adaptation of her best-known book.

A private family cremation service was held afterwards

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image captionStephen Mangan described Sue Townsend as "the warmest person he had ever met"

The author, who was given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester, died in April after a short illness.

Mangan read an extract from Townsend's book Mr Bevan's Dream, a work on the decline of the welfare state in the 1980s.

He was among about 500 friends, family, and fans at the funeral.

Speaking after the service, he said: "It was really lovely, totally fitting for quite an exceptional woman.

"Not only was she a multi-million selling writer, she was the warmest person I have ever met."

Townsend's second husband Colin Broadway and her four children, Sean, Daniel, Victoria and Elizabeth were at the service.

TV chef Jamie Oliver was also among the mourners.

They heard how she first met Mr Broadway as he was driving geese across a road in the Highfields area of Leicester - she thought he was a "nutter".

image captionSue Townsend was given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester in 2009

Later, on an early date, she arranged a babysitter but he turned up, cancelled the sitter and took everyone ice skating.

As a single mother she had many jobs, but one of her favourites was working in a petrol station, where she could read between filling tanks.

The service included readings from the author's works and tributes from friends and colleagues from the literary world, Leicester theatres and the Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby.

He announced the city's original Phoenix Theatre building, now called Upper Brown Street and used by Leicester College, would be renamed in her honour as a "fitting tribute" to the author.

School friends Joan Hogarth and Jean Meadowcroft also spoke of how the author would ignore uniform rules so she would be sent home to change and so miss several lessons.

On the last day, the friends all hoisted their "bras and knickers" up the school flagpole.

Townsend's popular Adrian Mole series started in 1982 with The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4, and the eighth instalment, Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, was released in 2009.

But her works also included the bestseller The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year and The Queen and I.

Townsend's family has requested that any donations in her memory be sent to the stroke wards at Leicester Royal Infirmary and the Rainbows Children's Hospice in Loughborough.

Author and journalist Nicci Gerrard, who met Townsend on several occasions, led the funeral as a humanist celebrant.

She interviewed her for a piece in the Observer newspaper shortly after Townsend went blind.

'Dark humour'

Speaking ahead of the funeral, Ms Gerrard said: "I was terrifically impressed by her. She was both full of grief and full of dark humour and laughter about it."

Ms Gerrard said she spent time with Townsend's family to prepare a eulogy for the funeral.

"She was clearly a woman who grew up in an ordinary family, very poor, a single mother," she said.

"For many years she wrote in secret, she didn't have the confidence to show any writing. She was this extraordinary, ordinary woman."

She also described Townsend as "unbeatable".

"She never let life beat her, she took life and dragged it with her. She had this extraordinary life force and she was funny in the midst of all of it.

"She was terrifically successful but never let the success go to her head."

Leicester City legend Alan Birchenall, who received the Freedom of Leicester on the same day as Townsend and singer Engelbert Humperdinck, was also at the funeral.

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image captionMourners agreed that Townsend had a great sense of humour

'Absolute gem'

He said of receiving the honour: "It was a wonderful day, embedded in my memory, it's so sad to return to De Montfort Hall for her funeral. She was such a lovely lady.

"When we were waiting to go on stage she turned to me and Englebert and said 'it's all right for you guys you perform in front of thousands of people, but I'm really nervous'."

Disability campaigner Andy Morris, from Leicester, was one of the first mourners to arrive at De Montfort Hall.

He said he had met Townsend once at the Curve Theatre.

"We've come to pay tribute to a lady of Leicester. She was an absolute gem," he said.

"Her books were known throughout the world, but she never seemed to forget her roots. She put Leicester on the map."

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image captionSue Townsend's ashes are to be scattered in mixed woodland
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image captionEvery mourner who went to the funeral received a copy of the first Adrian Mole book
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image captionA small crowd gathered outside the theatre to pay their last respects to the popular author

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