Farewell to Judy Dainton, the scourge of the central London developers

'She never lost the fire in her belly – she will be missed'

Thursday, 27th January — By Tom Foot

pics2022jan27 Image 2022-01-27 at 08.13.01 (23)

‘Countless residents’ benefitted from work to create and improve social housing

A COMMUNITY activist who devoted her life to battling double-dealing developers and unscrupulous landlords has been remembered this week as a likeable and loyal character “who you’d want in your pub quiz team”.

Judy Dainton, who has died aged 79, was a leading light in a group of residents that came together to fight for decent social housing and to set up the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association.

She moved to Calthorpe Street, King’s Cross, where she was the chair of the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood Forum and had campaigned to stop developers taking over the Carpenters Arms pub and supporting the Calthorpe Project.

Most recently she helped secure an Asset of Community Value status for her favourite local pub, the Calthorpe Arms, and was working with councillors to create an outdoor space for children at Christopher Hatton school.

Dave Wheeler, the former Carpenters Arms landlord who met with her most weeks, said: “Judith was a great and loyal person. She didn’t suffer fools and was very intelligent.

“Any just cause she was up for being part of it, and a big part of it. She was one for the right thing to do, not the underdog necessarily just the right thing to do.”

He added: “She was a well-read lady too, very educated. She was not with all the airs and graces but you’d want her in your quiz team.”

Mr Wheeler said he had met her three weeks ago with a glass of red wine in her wheelchair outside the Calthorpe Arms, where the group of exiled punters from the Carpenters would go after their pub was shut down.

“We’re going to have an event for her up at there,” he said. “She would have liked that, she’ll probably send us a ‘wish I was there’ postcard.”

Born in Sheffield in 1942, she graduated from Cambridge in 1961 before moving to Tottenham Street, Fitzrovia.

Last month, an old Channel 4 news film about the changing face of Fitzrovia was discovered in which Ms Dainton spoke about life in Fitzrovia and a campaign to restore derelict buildings for social housing.

In the film, she recalls: “I got a place for £1 a week in a big tenement block. It’s the kind of house you could only read about in books. It had immigrant workers, Italian garment cutters, Greek tailors, couple of musicians – Pink Floyd had just arrived as young lads from the country, they were rushing about in one bit of the house.”

Ms Dainton was part of a group that set up a tenants association that led to Camden Council buying the freehold of 39 Tottenham Street from the Middlesex Hospital in the early 1970s.

Upstairs was run as social housing while the ground floor and basement became the home of the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre in 1975. Judy became the chair of the inaugural Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association.

Nick Bailey, from the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum, said: “A number of campaigns revolved around assisting tenants in unacceptable conditions and urging Camden Council to compulsorily purchase some of the worst housing.

“In this she proved very successful. Perhaps Judith’s major contribution was in helping to set up the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association. She almost always got her way and as a result countless residents benefitted from her active involvement in two local communities.”

Holborn and Covent Garden councillor Julian Fulbrook said Ms Dainton had been “an incredible asset to our neighbourhood, particularly in our struggles over the Mount Pleasant project.”

Councillor Awale Olad, meanwhile, described her as “an incredible person, a big character, and was always up for the good fight”, adding: “She never lost the fire in her belly. She will be missed and we are thinking about an appropriate to honour her memory.”

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