Monday, June 06, 2011

Barry Mason RIP

I was going to do a post on Surrey Docks Farm, a nice Rotherhithe riverside oasis which I have long forgiven for having a donkey which once bit my son. I have been past there a couple of times recently and was reminded what a special place it is.

Sadly though I have to do a different post on the death of Barry Mason, manager of Surrey Docks Farm. Barry died last week on holiday in Spain, having been taken ill while swimming in the sea. Barry was well known as a cycling, environmental and community activist, co-ordinating Southwark Cyclists, taking part in Critical Mass rides, and enthusing about local history. He was a regular at South East London Folklore Society, as recalled in this nice SELFS tribute, and was also involved with Southwark Mysteries.

Barry worked for a while at Southwark Council on education capital projects. Negotiating local authority hierarchies and politics wasn't always his style, but he played a key role in the redevelopment of Eveline Lowe Primary School and the extension of Gumboots Community Nursery in East Dulwich (building nearing completion). He was in his element at Surrey Docks Farm, raising funds and securing its future at a time when many such facilities are struggling with cuts.

I was chatting to him at the Farm only a few weeks ago, him enthusing about SE16 agriculture and proudly showing off his fine and newly donated desk. He told a lovely story about how an elderly monk had come into the farm and told him that once a year he walked along the river from Westminster especially to visit the farm. The monastic house was closing down and he wanted to donate some furniture to the farm - hence the desk. I thought this typified Barry's ability to find allies for his enthusiasms in all sorts of places.

The SELFS tribute includes this wonderful quote from Barry: 'And every night in my tiny spare bedroom my bright red bike sleeps dreaming of tomorrow and me. Drifting round London together. Smiling.'

Herb garden at Surrey Docks Farm


aka Clive Shaw said...

Nice tribute Neil, most other comments have concentrated on his proactive cycling advocacy and practice, great to hear more of his other efforts. The farm had a real low point several years ago, Barry brought it some much needed energy and love.
It's been told elsewhere ( but him physically removing the Royal Mail box that was helping burglaries at the farm is a legend enough for one man.
I'm sure many more will come out when the full realisation of his (and London's) loss become more widely known.
Bless him, Clive

Deptford dame said...

This is awfully sad news. I met Barry a couple of times at the farm although I knew of him already via cycling campaigns. His passion for improving riverside access for cyclists and pedestrians was also key to opening up the river path thru the farm, not only making riverside rides easier but also bringing new people into the farm. I don't know if he did it regularly but he also talked of taking the farm's donkeys to Tescos at Surrey quays to do a weekly shop as a way of increasing the profile of the farm. Nothing daunted his enthusiasm or his imagination. When he plucked these ideas out of thin air his passion made it easy to believe that anything was possible. A very sad loss.

Officer Dibble said...

We're regulars at the farm - we have a toddler who loves the animals, and we have the excellent farm breakfast in the café most weekends. Very sad to hear this news - we didn't know Barry well personally but he was always a visible presence in the farm and at its heart. I hope there will be some lasting tribute to him at the farm to which visitors can contribute.