Remembering Lisa Pontecorvo

Lisa Pontecorvo‘s memorial event in Edward Square was, like Lisa herself, slightly anarchic, unexpectedly fun, and firmly community-based.

Two hundred plus people crammed into a marquee provided by Islington Greenspace (Lisa would heartily approve of this annexing of municipal resources for a community event) to hear a mix of spoken and musical tributes. Sadie Lambert unveiled a plaque at the Orchard entrance to the Square; and afterwards – as with so many community events before – there was tea and food, and Fr Jim, at Blessed Sacrament church hall.

It’s hard to pick out the highlights from so many – you had to be there. But mine include an emotional tribute from Lisa’s lifelong friend Ruth Kirk-Wilson. She reminisced about Lisa’s life beyond Islington, from student days in Oxford, to special times in St Luc, and told us how Lisa became ‘secular godmother’ to Ruth’s son, regaling Sunday lunches with details of her latest campaigns lest he become too sheltered…

And local landscape architect Johanna Gibbons used Lisa’s own words to tell us how she had championed the best design for the poorest neighbourhoods.

Then there was the music. Four very different performances: first the children from Blessed Sacrament and Copenhagen schools, with their original song for Lisa. Then X factor-style showstoppers from EGA students Grace and Serena. Alastair Murray closed by leading us singing We Shall Overcome. That’s something Lib Dems normally sing on the last night of our party conference, so it was a little surreal to be singing it with Lisa’s former Labour party comrades, but somehow that too was very Lisa.

The main musical performance was the Orchestra of the Age of Englightenment playing Handel – with compulsory audience participation. Now we know the actions, the Water Music will never be the same.

My abiding memory of the event will be of a great line of people, including conservationists, artists, politicians, council officers and community activists, all hand in hand, skipping in a baroque conga round Edward Square. How Lisa would have loved it!


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