Monica Willan, 81, describes her part in the battle against the closure of Barts
I'D BEEN going to St Barts for years as an outpatient for various minor things, including my arthritis. The Save Barts Campaign started in 1992, but I didn't really get involved until 1993, when the campaign was trying for a judicial review to keep the Accident and Emergency wing open and needed people to do various tasks.

They wanted an ordinary human being to appear as the Applicant in the case, and I fitted the bill because I was a patient at the hospital who lived locally, as well as being old, poor and arthritic. My friends were all overjoyed and very supportive about my involvement.

The reason why we initially decided to take the closure case to court was because one of the campaigners had asked the advice of her legal friends who said that we had a fifty-fifty chance of winning the case. We began by employing a lawyer and eventually a QC.

Going to the Royal Courts of Justice was quite exciting. Although the legal procedures are complicated I found them fascinating. I particularly love legal language since it is in very good, upmarket English.

It was a real blow when the judicial appeal was initially rejected in April last year, we all felt very let down. We then wanted to appeal against the judgement but didn't have enough money so we had to launch an appeal. In a way I did play a prominent role in publicising the cause. I went to the Evening Standard and asked for their help and they were very supportive. Then the radio and TV stations cottoned on. A firm of head-hunters were so taken by our appeal that they gave over their whole office for one day for us to take credit card pledges over the phone.

I hadn't anticipated all the publicity, and it was a bit of a drama actually. The interviews with people like Angela Rippon were a bit daunting to start off with since I had to be very careful about what I said, being the kind of person who tends to go over the top a bit. I can march and shout for Barts if I'm stirred enough. My involvement has included taking petitions to Downing Street and dumping them with the Prime Minister, holding marches by candlelight and going to the Tory conference in Bournemouth to leaflet the silly buggers as they went in to the conference. More militant action would be silly, we'd only put people's backs up and besides people who lie down in front of lorries or throw bricks at policeman are bloody fools.

I don't know that I'm a great campaigner, I certainly wouldn't campaign against motorway development. A few years ago they tried to close my local church and I stood up in the parish council meeting and said "You will close this church over my dead body!" They laughed, but I don't really know why.

I'm not Joan of Arc or any kind of hero. I'm a minor member of the campaign and it just so happened that I had the qualifications to be named as the Applicant in the case. I'm certainly not in it for personal aggrandisement and I don't think that I will become a role model for the elderly. You can tell John Major I don't want an OBE.

Although I hope that we have put a thorn in the Government's side I don't think that my involvement will make any difference or that the Government will take any notice of me - well, they didn't take any notice of the millions of signatures that we delivered to them! It's all down to whether our case is strong enough to win through.

Last Monday in court, when the judge gave us leave to make a judicial review I was so hot that I nearly expired. It amused me to think of the headline it would have made if I had died. But in the end it was nothing a shandy over at the pub couldn't help.

I have never been meek and mild and I've got worse as I've got older. When you get to my age and you've only got a few years left you need something to keep you going. I think you have to fight for things, its no good just sitting back and complaining.

Interview by Katie Sampson

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