Obituary: Philip Sansom

BY THE time of his death, Philip Sansom had been almost forgotten in an intellectual and political world that had honoured, if not enriched, his friend, colleague, and fellow anarchist Colin Ward.

Like Ward, Sansom was part of that resurgence of British anarchism centred around Freedom, the newspaper founded by Prince Peter Kropotkin in 1886. As a young art student, Sansom had been impressed by Herbert Read's Education Through Art (1943). Later, making contact with the people at Freedom, he was agreeably surprised to find that Read (not yet knighted) was a leading spokesman for anarchism.

Although he edited and wrote a great deal of the political analysis and commentary found in that paper in the post-war years, it was as a speaker and debater that Sansom made the most vivid impression. Anyone in late Forties and Fifties London visiting Speakers' Corner, or Manette Street, just by Foyle's bookshop off Charing Cross Road, would sooner or later notice the great leonine head with its luxuriant red hair and beard, and fall under the spell of his rich baritone and coruscating wit.

As an outdoor speaker he was compulsive, as an indoor debater persuasive, even in a court of law. On one occasion, a landlord trying to evict him took him to court. Sansom at his eloquent best won without effort, causing the judge to remark to his clerk, "We don't often get them this articulate, do we, Mr Jones? Some of our barristers would do well to take lessons, don't you think?"

He was not unfamiliar with courts, for the usual reasons that demonstrators find themselves in such places. He was part of the beginning of the campaign against capital punishment and led the occupation of the Cuban Embassy in July 1963 to protest against Castro's treatment of Cuban anarchists. He found an active role in most of the post-war protest movements like CND and Anti- Apartheid but he eschewed the temporary power that such movements can sometimes offer.

Sansom's most notorious moment came in April 1945 when, along with Dr John Hewetson, Vernon Richards, the proprietor of Freedom, and Richards's wife, Marie Louise Berneri, he found himself arraigned at the Old Bailey on a charge of conspiring to cause disaffection among members of the armed forces. They had suggested that liberty removed in the name of freedom during the war was unlikely to be restored after it. There was a strong public reaction, with Herbert Read, George Orwell, Michael Tippett, George Woodcock, Sydney Silverman and Ethel Mannin among the many names on, or involved with, the Freedom Defence Committee.

Forty years later Philip Sansom enjoyed telling the tale of how the police mixed up Herbert Read's art writing with anarchist propaganda and put the three men (Marie Louise was acquitted on the grounds that a wife cannot conspire with her husband) into a non-existent "Surrealist Party". In spite of much public protest, the three were sentenced to a year and served nine months, an experience that marked Sansom much more than he allowed most people to believe.

He worked for a while alongside George Melly at the London Gallery, the Surrealist art gallery run by the Belgian artist E.L.T. Mesens, spent a little time in advertising and eventually earned his living as a successful, if rather improbable, editor of the Sewing Machine Times and the even more obscure Loading Machine Times. At the same time, he continued to write and draw cartoons for Freedom, with occasional spells as editor. It was not unknown for his triple role to get confused. On one notable occasion the domestic readers of the Sewing Machine Times were treated to a full analysis and vigorous defence of a miners' strike.

The murder in the mid-Nineties of Sansom's daughter in America, by her husband, affected him badly and for several years he became a recluse. He did recover though and his last three years saw him, at 80, in jazz clubs like the 100 Club and Ronnie Scott's, reminiscing with those who remembered him, as many did, in full flood at Speakers' Corner.

Philip Sansom, writer and editor: born 19 September 1916; married (one son, one daughter, and one daughter deceased); died London 24 October 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice