Friday, January 18, 2008

Remembering Paul Hendrich

I can't believe that my friend Paul Hendrich is dead, but he is. He was apparently cycling from his home in Battersea to Goldsmiths in New Cross when he was hit by a lorry on Wednesday. He was just 36 years old, and leaves behind his wife Sasha and their one-year old daughter, Agatha.

I first met Paul a couple of years ago when he got in touch to interview me for a project he was doing about the former Deptford Town Hall, taken over by Goldsmiths College in 1998. Like me he had drawn the connections between its maritime statues and Deptford's links with slavery and colonialism. Unlike me he decided to do something about it, not only making it the focus of his Masters dissertation - the basis of an article to be published in the April issue of Anthropology Matters - but launching a campaign for Goldsmiths to publicly acknowledge this history in the context of debates about marking the abolition of slavery and the appropriateness of apologies and reparations. He was instrumental in organising an event at the Town Hall in June 2007 on 'Repairing the Trauma of History: What does an apology of substance look like?' which featured a group of people on the Sankofa Reconciliation Walk wearing yokes and chains attempting to make reparation for the acts of the seamen carved in stone on the front of the building.

Paul also organised a Town Hall Pirate society at Goldsmiths to have fun playing around with piracy while raising serious questions about an alternative maritime narrative from below. The photo of Paul here doing his Captain Hook pose was taken on a visit by the Pirates to the Island, where I met them to talk about the history and wonders of this New X traffic island.

In September 2007 he was involved in organising the Migrating University/No Borders events at Goldsmiths. We then worked closely together on the Lewisham '77 events, including a walk and a conference to mark the 30th anniversary of the anti-fascist demonstrations in New Cross and Lewisham. Paul's active opposition to racism carried over into his job, where he worked with young refugees. At the time of his death, he was preparing to sail to Arizona, USA to research the various forms of activism that have taken shape around undocumented cross-border migration of Mexicans into the US.

Sophie Day from Goldsmiths Anthropology department is right to say that 'Paul's enthusiasm, generosity, kindness and inclusiveness drew everyone he met into the broader issues that he was thinking about and working on'. He made many things happen, and everyone who knew him will also be mourning all the other numerous things he never got to make happen - he was always bubbling over with ideas. We never did find time to have those conversations about Brighton raves back in the day, the Yeovil music scene or contemporary americana (I believe Paul was learning to play the banjo) - we were always too busy planning and scheming.

Details of memorial here

7 comments:

Tom Pain said...

I worked with Paul in my time as a sabbatical officer at Goldsmiths, he was smart and good hearted, as far as I could see constantly working for the benefit of others. I know all the Union team are gutted by his passing as indeed are all those involved here at No Pain In Pop. He will be missed and I am told that through the Union and members of his department his work will be continued.

caffy said...

Paul is a totally inspiration, all the wonderful things that he has done are the seeds of a more positive future. He has been more of a friend to his community than most of them will ever know, but like all inspirations, will never be forgotten. I miss him so much.

Town Hall Pirates forever
love you Paul,
a local Love Pirate

hamkham said...

Paul will always hold a special place in my heart, not only as a fellow youth worker but also as a friend. He loved his work with young people and gave 100% in everything he did, I still cant belive he's gone but his good work will live on. my condolences to Pauls wife and beautiful daughter Sasha and Agutha

Lollard street APG will miss you.
peace

Jane said...

I went to school with Paul. I just heard today about this tragic accident. I feel so sad for his wife and Daughter. He was a great guy at school and its not surprising he was a great guy until he died. I still can't believe the news :(

Anonymous said...

Paul is my uncle. He was a wonderful man. I loved my trips up to London to see him and Sasha. He taught me a number of things I'd never notice like how to appreciate music and art. He put so much hard effort into his work, and the children he worked with adored him. He was always an inspiration to me. I wish he could see his daugher now. She's so beautiful. Uncle Paul, you'll never be forgotten. You'll always be in our hearts. I miss you.
-Alice Bloomfield.

Transpontine said...

Good to hear from you Alice, your uncle was a wonderful guy and we all still miss him. I often find myself thinking, when there's some interesting adventure planned in New Cross, 'this would be right up Paul's street'. Neil

Giselle Ribeiro said...

Dear blogger, we are a group of students doing a BA in Anthropology and Media at Goldsmiths. We are making a short, non-profit, documentary regarding the Pirate Legacy in Deptford, London. We have acknowledged that you are familiar with Paul Hendrich, and his the uncovering of the history of Deptford.

Synopsis:
The statues of the 'Naval Heroes', inscribed on the façade of the Deptford Town hall commemorates capitalism, colonialism, and slavery. Further to this, Paul Hendrich, a former Goldsmiths student, attempted to reclaim Deptford Town hall, a Goldsmiths building since 1997, back to the hands of the community. Hendrich’s fascination with the issue of borders, along with the foundation of a ‘pirate society’ at the university, brought to the surface the hidden history of Deptford. By capturing historical urban landscapes, local stories, and real voices, we aim to open up the discussion, once started by Hendrich, and bring to the surface the pirate legacy, which make Deptford what it is today. We would like to talk to Paul's wife, Sasha, in respect of the film and how Paul's work have inspired us. Please, email me on pa101gr@gold.ac.uk. Thank you so much for your help. Giselle Ribeiro