CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Friends mark tenth anniversary of community campaigner Barry Sullivan’s death

Labour councillor tells gathering that advice centre worker achieved more than politicians

06 September, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Friends remember Barry Sullivan at his bench in St Martin’s Gardens

IN one corner of St Martin’s Gardens sits a bench honouring Ellen Luby, the grande dame heckler who sat for so many years in the Town Hall’s public gallery, and nearby there are seats bearing the name of a rebellious former mayor of Camden, Gloria Lazenby.

Discreetly, the park in Camden Town has become an unofficial garden of tributes for a band of unsung volunteers who tried to stand up for the area’s most needy. On Thursday, friends returned to remember another lost campaigner on the 10th anniversary of his death, sharing stories of how Barry Sullivan, who ran the Camden Town Neighbourhood Advice Centre for many years, had devoted his life to helping others.

Although the centre carried on in Ms Lazenby’s front room, a decade after Mr Sullivan’s passing, the nature of the centre’s eviction from its base in Greenland Road, where more than 900 clients were on the books, is a lasting sore point. He was seen by many as someone to turn to when everything seemed lost.

He helped vulnerable residents as they struggled with council bureaucracy, occasionally embarrassing authorities by winning victories without any legal training. His funeral turned out to be a carnival celebration of his life and an open-top bus was driven past the Town Hall to remind officials and politicians of the resentment felt towards the eviction.

The building was later turned into a rest-stop for Camden police officers. In the advice centre’s final days, pensioners were among supporters who barricaded themselves.

Mr Sullivan held a rooftop protest with the centre’s giant heart for a mascot when police finally moved in. Labour councillor Roger Robinson told the gathering on Thursday: “He really did so much for the borough, more so than most people to do today. I have sadness over what happened to him when a person on the council of some rank decided to take away the place down the road. It was appalling and it ended a long, long history of service to this borough.”

Barry Sullivan coming down from the roof in Greenland Road

He added: “Even when he was dying I remember going to his flat and I remember the phone rang and he started talking and he said he would do this, that and the other for the person concerned. I said, ‘Barry, old friend, you can’t keep on doing that – let other people do it just once.’ But he went on and on and on and did it.” Although some have since moved out of Camden Town, friends return to bench each year to remember Mr Sullivan.

Plume Tarrant, who adopted Mr Sullivan’s dog, Rocky, after his death, said: “Barry was there when other places were closed. He made me feel safe when I was up against the housing department. I knew he understood how people felt, he had an empathy and love for people.” Ms Tarrant added: “So many times I hear about things, I read about things, this rolling out of the Universal Credit scam. I think Barry would be there, working away.”

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