Obituary: Faith Lawson

PICTURE AN inner London street in the early 1990s. Under the eyes of a policeman, a few burly men are heaving an illegally parked car off the pavement and into the road. Nearby stands a little old lady carrying a Harrods bag. She watches intently and, sensing that the policeman may be about to intervene, goes to speak to him. The car heaving continues without interference and soon the pavement is free of obstructions. This was Faith Lawson, Chairman of the Pedestrians Association, at an action to "reclaim the pavements".

With her Methodist upbringing and long record of public service, she never ceased to be amused that this episode earned her the label of "eco- terrorist". Someone more devoted to peace and the brotherhood of man cannot be imagined.

Faith Lawson was one of four children brought up in the suburban comfort of West Bridgford, on the edge of Nottingham. Her father, John, was a pharmaceutical chemist who worked for and knew Jesse Boot. As a circuit steward in the Methodist Church, he and his Scots wife (nee Faith Clokie) passed on to their only daughter strong moral values and a whiff of nonconformity. They were also determined that she should have first-hand experience of ordinary life. Education at University College, Nottingham, may have brought her a BSc in Economics (1943) and fluency in Italian but her first jobs were in girls' youth work, and welfare at Boots.

She managed to leave her protective home circle thanks to her older brother Hugh. He was standing for Parliament in 1945 in the election which saw Churchill's defeat. Needing help with his campaign, he asked his sister to bring her typewriter to Harrow West. It was Faith Lawson's first taste of politics and, although Hugh (a Common Wealth candidate) lost his deposit, she was soon nipping in and out of the Palace of Westminster. Typically, she chose to work for Konni Zilliacus, a controversial far left-winger who was the Member for Gateshead.

Lawson's subsequent life fell into three main parts. The first involved audience research initially at the BBC (1950-63) and then in Nigeria. At Broadcasting House she developed a lifelong love of The Archers but was also involved in early research into television viewing. It was at the BBC too that complimentary tickets developed her taste for music. Between 1963 and 1964 Lawson worked in audience research at the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, in Enugu. She then spent three years at the University of Nigeria, in Nsukka as head of the department of Secretarial Studies, actively promoting higher education for women. She had had an earlier taste of black rights issues through hearing Martin Luther King preach in the late 1950s, during a visit to her brother, a professor of Divinity in Atlanta, Georgia.

She returned from Nigeria in 1967 as the civil war broke out and went to work at the London Borough of Camden, where she stayed until 1984, allocating houses to those with special needs. The job required fairness, consistency and bottle: Lawson had all three.

Her final career move swept her into campaigning for transport. From 1984 onwards she was involved in the London Regional Passengers Committee, Transport 2000 and, most notably, between 1985 and 1997, the management committee of the Pedestrians Association. She also found time for her home territory of Wandsworth. Not only did she chair the local Pensioners' Forum but, on behalf of her beloved Samson and Goldie, she successfully fought a ban against dogs on the common. Another irreplaceable part of her life at Wandsworth was Tony Delaney, whom she had met while working for Camden. They had a long, close and deep friendship. Last year she told Tony, Eleanor and their daughter Sophie that they were her "ready-made family".

During her time as chairman of the Pedestrians Association the tide began to turn in favour of walking. The clearest sign was the setting up by Steven Norris, then a junior Transport Minister, of a national walking steering-group. Lawson played her part in campaigning for the group and was amused that she, a lifelong socialist and defender of the underdog, could be so chummy with a Tory minister who famously defined the distaste of suburban England for sitting beside hoi polloi in a bus.

In 1997 the little old lady with the Harrods bag was appointed MBE for years of public service and, in particular, her work for pedestrians. It was a well-deserved prize for a woman deeply principled (though not without guile in matters political) who had striven hard and long with little interest in her own self-aggrandisement. When "Encouraging Walking: the National Strategy" is published this month by Glenda Jackson, the Transport Minister, those of us who knew Faith Lawson will see it as a fitting memorial to her life.

Faith Lawson, housing officer and campaigner: born West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire 9 February 1922; Chairman, Pedestrians Association 1991-97; MBE 1997; died London 16 October 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral