A hot and busy day, but ultimately a rewarding one was had by the 200 or so people who sat, wandered around and conversed for 3 hours in Conway Hall, central London on July 10th 2010 fot the Colin Ward memorial. Colin’s funeral on March 1st had been about summoning up the spirit and humour of the man, whereas this event was more to do with his public persona, his politics and the impressions he left with those he worked with.
The first two speakers were, appropriately, the main organisers of the occasion. Ken Worpole, editor of the Colin Ward festschrift Richer Futures set the tone perfectly with a friendly welcome to the gathering, describing how he had known Colin since the early 1970s and how unique Colin was amongst environmental thinkers and educators. Colin’s wife Harriet then gave us a picture of a shy but intellectually intriguing Colin when she first met him at a teacher-training college in 1965.
Stuart White, author of the essay Making Anarchism Respectable gave a polished account of Colin’s place in the overall political spectrum and was fittingly followed by Peter Marshall, author of Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, who looked at Colin’s position within the anarchist tradition.
These speeches all came from a lectern at the left of the stage, while a huge screen in the centre showed a still image of Colin at his typewriter. Now the screen came to life as film-maker Mike Dibb introduced a section from his DVD: Colin Ward in Conversation with Roger Deakin in which Colin talked of his involvement in the trial of the editors of Freedom newspaper in 1945.
In another change of emphasis, my half-brother Tom played the piano while I sang an American song from the 1920s whose lyrics I remember my dad hearing and agreeing with, Always Lift Him Up (And Never Knock Him Down). It begins like this –
When a fellow has the blues and feels discouraged
And there’s nothin’ else but trouble all his life
When he’s always grumbled at and never happy…
Do not fail to lend a hand and try to help him
Always lift him up and never knock him down
In the 1970s, Colin’s assistant as the Education Officer of the Town and Country Planning Association was Tony Fyson, who joyfully shared his personal recollections of working with Colin and the repertoire of songs ranging from opera to music hall which he used to sing in the office.
Dennis Hardy, who wrote two books with Colin in the 1980s, recounted how much fun the two of them had on their field trips, interviewing people and taking in the environments, both urban and rural, which they wrote about.
Colin’s role as an inspiring educator was described by Roman Krznaric in an eloquent speech; Eileen Adams, who worked with Colin in the 1970s on the Art and the Built Environment project, enjoyably recalled how “he would leave me in the shit but I always knew he was there to get me out of it”.
While collaborating on the book Sociable Cities with Colin, Peter Hall, currently President of the TCPA, told us amusingly of the difficulties in converting Colin’s typewritten chapters into computer-useable documents. The last contributor to the proceedings was geographer Brian Goodey, who recalled a 1968 issue of Anarchy which featured a piece on Bob Dylan by the late Charlie Gillett, who went on to become a renowned expert on popular and world music.
At the back of the hall were bookstalls from Freedom Press, Housman’s Bookshop and Five Leaves Publications, whose founder Ross Bradshaw was helpful in organising this event. His firm Five Leaves have published and re-issued many Colin Ward titles. Harriet Ward’s own book about her father, A Man of Small Importance, was also on sale, along with postcards of a large framed drawing of Colin by the cartoonist Simon Farr, dating from 1990. Dan Poyner displayed a mock-up of his projected book of covers of Colin’s 1960s magazine Anarchy, alongside a collection of many photos of Colin and other memorabilia of his life.
Amongst the large and supportive gathering were Colin’s immediate family and also his sister-in-law Kate, his niece Sue, his nephew Colin and cousins Barbara and Tony, of whom the last-named collaborated with Colin in 1991 on – you’ve guessed it – a book.