Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pete Pope

Well-known Deptford community activist Pete Pope died last Friday. He had been ill for some time with cancer. I met Pete a few years ago when he and I were involved with others (including the also departed Paul Hendrich) in planning the Lewisham '77 events to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the anti-National Front protests in the area. Various meetings took place in the Marquis of Granby.

Others who knew him well will doubtless have lots of stories to tell. He was particularly active around housing and regeneration issues in the Deptford area, including the campaign against Lewisham Council evicting tenants and selling off the Aragon Tower on the Pepys Estate to private developers (the sale went ahead, with the tower later featured in the BBC documentary The Tower). In fact Pete's face is one of those staring out to the Thames from the Wall of Ancestors sculpture at the base of the Aragon Tower. 
Pete Pope

The sculpture by Martin Bond was first unveiled in 1997, but was recast and repositioned in 2006. It features local  community faces from the time as well as historical figures associated with Deptford. Pete is the face in the top left,  with Tony O'Leary to his right. Below Pete is Shirley Steward and next to her is Grinling Gibbons. The other panel (not pictured) also includes Olaudah Equiano and Catehrine of Aragon, among others.

 Pete was also involved with Convoys Opportunity (along with Deptford Misc blogger Bill Ellson and others), campaigning against turning the Convoys Wharf site into a luxury housing development. While their specific proposal for a cruise liner terminal on the site came to nothing (though something similar is now planned for Greenwich peninsula), the questions they raised about using that site for the benefit of the community and acknowledging its maritime history are still very pertinent.

As part of the campaign, Pete dressed up as Nelson on a barge sailing by the site  in May 2005: 'No more Penthouses... Convoys Opportunity unveiled its new charter for the former Convoys Wharf deep water moorings at Deptford on Monday. Sailing past on Thames barge Lady Daphne, campaigners invoked the area's maritime history and were accompanied by Henry VIII, Lord Nelson and Cardinal Wolsey.The protesters are calling on Lewisham Council to reject plans to build 3,500 new homes in three tower blocks up to 40 storeys high on the site' (Newshopper, 17 May 2005 includes blurry photo of Pete as Nelson).

I found this old Deptford TV film of him at the weekend and stuck it up on youtube. It was made in 2007 by Gopi Sastri, Ellie Walton and Salim A. Syed and features Pete talking about regeneration -  'this so-called regeneration process has been grinding across Deptford for the last 20 years'. 

Update: - funeral details: Pete Pope will be cremated on Friday 15th June at 10:45 am in Hither Green Cemetery. There will be a bike ride from there back to the Dog and Bell in Deptford in his honour where there will be  a wake.

On Sunday the 24th June friends will be gathering in the Birds Nest Deptford from mid afternoon to process with his ASHES  to Halfpenny Hatch bridge astride Deptford Creek around 4 30 pm to sprinkle him over the out going high tide , and then returning to the pub to celebrate one of Deptfords finest. All welcome' .


Lurca said...

I was involved in a show called 'Dotty Quavers's Last Symphony' with Michelle Petite-Jean and Angie Bates,as narrator and page-turner.When we neede an actor I suggested Pete who came in ,learnt his lines,and learnt some of mine as well,in about four hours!Stunnin'
R.I.P.'the Grabber Man'

Jason Cortez said...

Very sad news.

Ben Gidley said...

I am incredibly sad to hear this. I'd lost touch with Pete over the last couple of years. I knew he was ill, but hadn't made the effort to get in touch, and now feel terrible.

The last time I saw him was late summertime, the summer before last I think. We hung out for a while on the community garden on the Pepys, and I see him there now squinting against the sun, mug of tea in one hand, rollie in the other and a mischievous laugh.

When I was working as a researcher in Deptford, Pete was one of the very first people I interviewed. He was incredibly generous to me then, and remained so over the following several years.

He contributing a huge amount to the area: through the Albany, Deptford Community Forum and the Deptford Discovery Team, Pepys Community Forum, Deptford TV, Lewisham 77 and so many other local initiatives.

It's great that he is still commemorated on the wall of Aragon (originally, he told me, intended to be called the Yucatan Wall of the Ancestors - is that right?).

Anonymous said...

Worked on a bunch of stuff with Pete - perhaps most notably an (until that point) unperformed Stephen Burkoff play - Greek.
His joy in the sheer verve of the language: loud rude pointed and not afraid to rage was fabulous - Just one aspect. I shall miss him


Unknown said...

Very, very sad, Does anyone have details on the funeral?

Anonymous said...

Pete was a character from my childhood. One colourful personality that sticks in the memory and reminds me of great times. Pete helped me get involved in drama when I felt too shy to approach on my own. I remember him having a very kind face and an earring! His passing is sad news indeed. : (

Susan said...

My mentor / tormentor. My love. Whether he knew it or not (and I think he did), I have carried him with me through my life. I met Pete when I was 18 and he was 30. I went for lunch to the flat above Charlie's West African Delicatessen in Kilburn and stayed for three years. We had highs so high and lows so low I have never experienced such since. He taught me more than anyone and I am so sad that I am thousands of miles away and cannot come to say goodbye. Pete Pope - mad, bad and dangerous to know. You'd say it with a smile and a pint in your hand, one eyebrow raised and a slight twitch at the corner of your mouth... challenging for contradiction. There was none. You were the maddest, baddest and most dangerous man for me and I have loved you for it ever since. Go well. Business is no longer unfinished.

Unknown said...

Rather excellent turn out. Capably shepherded cycle run causing some minor disruption to traffic. So many attendees they had to send people upstairs to fill the balcony and there was still standing room only...
Seemed just about everyone was there, people had come from all over southern england.
Good bit of 'Stones music and Charles Hayworth played live. Good address from some bloke, plenty of jokes and reminiscences. Back to the pub and the first time Pete has bought lots of people a drink!!!

A really good show.