John Lock, 1986

This photograph was clearly not taken in West Bromwich, though it could have been had the planners of 1960 had their way – they planned to encircle the town with an inner ring road (accomplished) and build astonishing skyscrapers in the centre that in their visualisations made the place seem a mini-Manhattan (in reality, they moved the skyscrapers onto the adjacent Lyng estate). 

Many members of Jubilee Arts knew John Lock, first as a constituency office manager and researcher for Tony Banks MP, and thus one of the earliest politicians to take cultural policy seriously, as well as being a leading councillor on Newham Council. We also knew him as an an admirable Board member of Cultural Partnerships Limited, a sister organisation in Hackney, London.  There were board exchanges with CPL and some shared projects (see Sandwell May Day and Smethwick Music Workshop). John was a man with vision, a good heart and practical ideas. For over 30 years he worked tirelessly in public services and in higher education with the University of East London. In latter years he successfully led UEL’s engagement with the London 2012 Games and Legacy – and retained his sense of humour. We are very sorry to hear of his passing at the age of 62. 

In the 80’s he was part of a team of people from different community arts groups who came together to write ‘Culture and Democracy: The Manifesto’, published by Comedia,  and helped develop many links with many U.S. artists and cultural groups devoted to social engagement and activism. One of those, Charles Frederick, writes this:

 ‘Witty, wonderful, worldly, indefatigable, John Lock. You took parts of our hearts for keeps (still kept, dear one). This is a cruelty. Who else had that boyish sense and certainty about justice, about how the world would improve (because it could)? That strange and difficult, forever capturing charm? The will to pleasure? Remember that midnight cab ride through the middle of Manhattan, jammed with the endless and impossible, shouting and honking traffic, racing through, us three: you (unloosed), me, and Andrew: everything worth commenting upon, laughing at, everything an exciting sensation, life a rampage of love, everything impossible soon to be transformed into the possible, even as it flew by with a Futurist speed. I won’t let go of you, John Lock. We have a lot more work to do, and my demand is to keep you at our sides, as we proceed. As they say, about all the best: John Franklin Lock, presente!’

The photograph was taken by Andrew Howard, who was a member of Islington Bus Company (one of the early community arts groups), taken in 1986 on top of the Twin Towers in New York City, during an exchange with artists from the Alliance for Cultural Democracy.