Jonathan Crown, charity founder gave thousands hope

As well as Project Harar, he had recently established a new charity called Winning Smiles

Thursday, 22nd October 2020 — By Dan Carrier


Jonathan Crown

CHARITY founder Jonathan Crown spent a lifetime using his talent and determination to make the world a better place for others.

Jonathan, who died two weeks ago aged 56 following a heart attack, was so moved by the plight of a boy suffering from a facial deformity who he met while travelling in Ethiopia, he set up a charity that would offer free medical treatment to thousands of people.

Jonathan was born in 1964 and grew up in Fitzjohns Avenue, Hampstead.

His mother, ­Jennifer Vyvyan, was a renowned opera singer and a muse to composer Benjamin Britten.

She tragically died when Jonathan was just nine, and he would later create a website in her memory with New Journal classical music critic Michael White.

Jonathan attended Arnold House pre-prep school before boarding at Shrewsbury School. It was here that he developed a love of sports as a key member of the school’s football and cricket teams. And he would later become a dedicated tennis player, playing four times a week.

As a child, he enjoyed taking tube trains and riding the network with friends, and his passion for the Underground continued into later life when he collected tube maps dating back to 1931.

After completing a degree at London Polytechnic, Jonathan worked as a chartered accountant, before establishing his own property management firm.

He met his wife, Josephine, in 1999 after dates at a gallery and at the opera established they had shared interests. When she moved for a time to New York, Jonathan followed her there.

After returning to London, they set up home in Highgate in 2004 and had a daughter, Tia, and a son, Theo. Living near the Heath throughout his life, Jonathan loved long walks with his border terriers Pickle and Chutney.

He loved to combine his passion for travel with his love of photography. He had traversed South America, the Far East and Africa, and it was while on a trip to Ethiopia in 2000 that his life – and that of thousands of others – would change.

In the town of Harar, Jonathan met a boy called Jemal who had facial deformities.

He then met another child whose face had been scarred by a hyena attack. Jonathan was so moved that he founded the charity Project Harar, which provides free medical treatment for cleft palates and lips, and other medical conditions.

When Jonathan took Jemal, the first person to be treated as a result of his work, to a hospital ship they went via London so they could visit Upton Park to watch his team West Ham play.

Music also played a big part in his life: he was a huge fan of hip-hop. Josephine explained: “It went right back to the start in the mid-1970s and the artists who were coming out of the Bronx with their hardcore and passionate rap about life on the streets and the poverty and violence that went with it. I’m not really sure why Jon was so taken with it, but he loved anything a little left field and edgy and was a great supporter of the underdog.”

He would play Public Enemy, Tupac Shakur, Eric B & Rakim to friends, and regularly go to hip-hop gigs. Josephine added: “He would often struggle but always persuade his somewhat incredulous friends to accompany him, and he would support minor struggling London artists by buying merchandise and CDs.”

As well as Project Harar, Jonathan had recently established a new charity called Winning Smiles, which sought to help children whose needs might not be met by other organisations.

His ambition and energy made the world a better place for many, and his legacy includes the confident smiles of those who have benefitted from his kindness.

Related Articles