A tribute to Peter Stocker

Photo:Peter in Trafalgar Street, 2006

Peter in Trafalgar Street, 2006

Photo courtesy of The Argus

Photo:Peter in his pottery, 2006

Peter in his pottery, 2006

Photo courtesy of The Argus

Photo:Sally & Peter Stocker in December 2009

Sally & Peter Stocker in December 2009

Photo:Peter was always smiling

Peter was always smiling

Photo:Sally & Peter Stocker, 2013

Sally & Peter Stocker, 2013

Photo:Peter photographed as a child on Brighton beach

Peter photographed as a child on Brighton beach

Photo:Peter celebrated his 62nd birthday propped up in bed. By that time his cancer was quite advanced.

Peter celebrated his 62nd birthday propped up in bed. By that time his cancer was quite advanced.

Photo:Peter photographed in Watermead, 2010

Peter photographed in Watermead, 2010

Photo:Peter at his craft

Peter at his craft

Photo:Peter celebrated his 60th birthday at the Pavilion Gardens Cafe in 2013.The Balloon Man made him a special crown to wear for the occasion!

Peter celebrated his 60th birthday at the Pavilion Gardens Cafe in 2013.The Balloon Man made him a special crown to wear for the occasion!

Photo:Peter outside the Royal Pavilion

Peter outside the Royal Pavilion

Died 29th October 2015 aged 62

By Peter Crowhurst and Barry Leigh (for the North Laine Community Association)

Introduction

On 29th October 2015 Peter Stocker passed away peacefully with his family around him. He had fought hard to keep going and lived far longer than his doctors had predicted. He was just 62 years old but had packed into those years several lifetimes worth of hard work for the various communities he served.

Many tributes

The North Laine Runner for November/December 2015 (No 237) included several tributes to Peter Stocker (affectionately known as 'Peter the Potter). He had worked tirelessly for North Laine for just under 30 years, initially as an active member of the North Laine Community Association and later also via the North Laine Traders Association.

In all nine tributes were published, including four from traders or former traders. Since many of the sentiments expressed in these tributes were similar, not all are being mounted on this website in full but rather a selection to give website visitors a taste of what an extraordinary man Peter Stocker was. Below is a well researched tribute by Peter Crowhurst and Barry Leigh on behalf of the North Laine Community Association.

He worked to improve the North Laine area

Peter Stocker had lived and worked for 29 years in North Laine and devoted much of that time to improving the area in which he lived and worked and brought up a young family. Peter committed himself fully to the North Laine community and his legacy is all around us now. Jubilee Street, North Place, the Station Site development, our street lighting, the cleanliness of our streets - all owe something to Peter's input.

Arnold persuaded Peter to move to North Laine

In a story told many years later, Peter claimed it was Arnold Whitehouse, a resident of Kensington Place at the time, who persuaded him to move to North Laine in 1981 because the area had the kind of residents who would buy his wares. At the time Arnold was the advertising sales coordinator for the NLCA and was no doubt looking for customers to advertise in the North Laine Runner. Arnold sold Peter on the idea of the Runner and living in North Laine. It was also Arnold who suggested that Peter and his wife Sally attend NLCA meetings and it wasn't long before they began to become actively involved in the running of the Association and its activities.

He was a family man

Peter was above all a family man and this was reflected in the activities of the NLCA, particularly when he was an officer. The NLCA was a family community in a way that it is not today. Parents and children were an important part of the life of the community and if you look through early copies of the North Laine Runner, most photos of Peter are with children. In many photos he has his daughter Amy on his back - not for him the excuse I can't come to a meeting because I can't get a babysitter. Peter and Sally were young parents at the time and the North Laine community was part of their extended family.

He became Environment Coordinator

Within a year of moving into North Laine, in May 1982, Peter became Environment Coordinator. One of the major developments at the time was  the Jubilee site and he fought to get a better plan than the one that was on offer at that time - an ice rink and  office developments. Peter wanted a smaller scale development with residential housing and with the retention of North Place. What we have today is testament to his tenacity and perseverance.

Then he became NLCA Chair

In April 1985 Peter became Chair of the NLCA. He was only Chair for one year but in that time introduced a number of initiatives. He instituted a regular liaison with the police to deal with the vandalism, particularly the smashing of shop fronts, that was blighting the area. He began by inviting the police to attend a community meeting and then followed this up with regular liaison meetings.  When the police proved reluctant to improve their policing of the area, there was a suggestion (from Peter?) that the traders withhold part of their rates until policing improved.

Involvement with Brighton Festival

Peter got the NLCA involved with the Brighton Festival. He helped organise  a community workshop for 10-16 year olds in which the participants were taught to use 35mm cameras and make enlargements in a dark room. The prints produced formed part of an NLCA exhibition held during the community part of the Festival.

A Toddlers Group was founded

Peter also helped found a Toddlers Group. Founded in May 1985 it had its own home, the Brighton Natural Health Centre in Regent Street, where the group met on Wednesdays. Nearly 60 parents and children attended, so many they had to start a membership scheme with a waiting list. At Christmas the toddlers had their own party which Peter helped to organise.

He worked with the Council to install better lighting

A constant issue at this time was the poor lighting in the area and Peter's work on this whilst Chair was to bear fruit later in 1988 when he worked with the Council to install new and better lights. Some residents did not want to have new lights close to or on their homes and Peter worked hard, having persuaded the Council to allocate new lights to the area, to persuade residents to accept them.

He then became Treasurer and Adverts Coordinator

In 1987 Peter became Treasurer of the NLCA and he put the Association on a better financial footing. He encouraged traders to advertise in the North Laine Runner by helping them with the design of their adverts and preparing the artwork. As a result of this involvement with the adverts Peter became Adverts Coordinator for the Runner. He also organised jumble sales like the one in July 1988 at Brighthelm which raised £100 - a lot of money in those days and which went a long way towards keeping the NLCA afloat.

One of 'The Big Sweep' organisers

To do something to improve the appearance of the area Peter was one of the organisers of 'The Big Sweep' - a collaboration with the Council's Cleansing Department to clear away fly posters and general litter. Extra litter bins were launched as part of the day and residents came out of their houses to join Peter and his team.

Several roles at the same time

At the time he was Treasurer, Peter was also Adverts Coordinator, a Toddlers Group Coordinator and sat on the Environment Group. He and Sally were also Street Representatives, variously for Trafalgar Street and St George's Place.

The North Laine Traders Association was launched

In the Spring of 1989 Geoff Ellis announced the formation of the North Laine Traders Association and from this time Peter began to spend time on the work of the NLTA.  But this did not mean that he was to reduce his commitment to the community of residents. If anything Peter's commitment to the area increased because he was in the unique position of being in two local organisations which usually had similar aims.

He helped organise a children's street party

Peter continued to organise NLCA events. as when in June 1997 he helped organise a children's party in Upper Gardner Street outside the David Land Centre. At the beginning of the afternoon Peter was concerned that there were only about eight children present but all of a sudden they began to arrive in numbers and eventually there were over 70 enjoying the entertainment provided. Peter even roped in his daughter Amy to help with the games. Someone said afterwards that it had been a lot of work to organise. Peter's response was that if the kids had enjoyed it then it was worthwhile. That summed up Peter's attitude.

The NLCA and NLTA worked together

Peter facilitated the working together of the NLTA and the NLCA. Typical of this cooperation was the work that Peter and Barry Leigh did in working on the Council Planning Brief for the Station site, which guided development on the site. They met frequently in Peter's Workshop Pottery to discuss the Planning Brief and to ensure that the traders and residents had a united front to bring about a design and a road scheme that did not have an adverse impact on North Laine. By this time Peter was co-chair of the traders association, the NLTA.

Peter knew more about North Laine than anyone

Peter's workshop had by now become a kind of community centre. He knew more about the North Laine than anyone and people sought out his advice, especially new officers of the NLCA.  He had time for everyone and often would be the time when he had a queue of people waiting to talk to him. He would go on to become a governor of both St Bartholomew's School and City College as well as an honorary member of the NLCA -  he was really Mr North Laine.

He continued to work for North Laine after moving away

Even after the move to Aylesbury Peter continued to work for North Laine. He wrote letters to Brighton & Hove Council's planning department to support the NLCA and he has written a piece in a forthcoming book about the North Laine - a book which will be dedicated to him.

Peter's legacy is around us

We have a lot to thank Peter for. The North Laine we see today of buildings and businesses in a historic area that has retained its character, all on a human scale with a village atmosphere, is a legacy of Peter's work.

An overwhelming sense of civic responsibility

We fear that we will not see his like again - that is, someone who feels a sense of civic responsibility in his 20s and spends a lifetime committed to the public good. He did not seek power or fame and nor did he shout about his achievements. He went about his work for the community with the minimum of fuss but with a maximum sense of determination and purpose. The world is the poorer for his no longer being with us.

 

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 237, November/December 2015]

This page was added on 04/01/2016.
Comments/reviews:

I remember Peter Stocker as eternally cheerful, enthusiastic and good-natured. I first met him in the early 1980s when he became involved in the community association as environment co-ordinator. He wrote a piece for the North Laine Runner in September 1982 arguing passionately that too many office blocks were planned for the area and we needed smaller-scale development with more homes.

He went to meetings with architects and council departments about the biggest project North Laine has seen since it became a conservation area – the Jubilee Street scheme – and played his part in ensuring its scale was kept in proportion and housing remained in North Place.

This was a crucial period in North Laine’s modern development and Peter’s optimism never dimmed. In March 1985 he wrote: “It seems as though every square inch of derelict land has suddenly been earmarked for development (but)… North Laine still retains the charm and magic it has always had.”

That year he became chair of NLCA and under his leadership new offshoots thrived such as a toddlers’ group and festival group, which organised North Laine residents’ contributions to Brighton Festival. He enjoyed the social side and helped to organise many parties and community events.

Peter was a family man who cared about his neighbours and loved the area. The Workshop Pottery he ran with Sally in Trafalgar Street for 29 years wasn't just a business, it was a creative workspace which welcomed people in to browse, chat and share their obvious passion for their art.

He appeared laid-back and unhurried but in truth he was always busy and brimming with ideas. When his term as NLCA chair ended he made it his task to bring together traders and residents in a way only he could have done. With others, he set up North Laine Traders’ Association and was its chair and secretary before he moved away with Sally to Aylesbury.

It was always a pleasure to come across Peter in the street – he had time for a chat and his gentle humour, compassion and sense of commitment were always uplifting.

By Kim Curran (NLCA Vice-Chair)
On 06/01/2016

I have lost a very dear friend – so kind, helpful and generous.

When I moved to Kemp Street in the early ‘80s I first met Peter in his Workshop Pottery. Having noted in my first Runner that he was chair of NLCA, I went to him for advice regarding a local planning issue. He soon pointed me in the right direction. I immediately loved his shop with all the wonderful pots and at the time a playpen in the middle containing a very young playful Amy.

We soon became good friends and he was always there with help and advice. When later I became NLCA advertising coordinator I didn’t know where to start. At that time the Runner was pasted up manually and the adverts had to be photocopied, cut to size and sometimes drawn by hand. I would use Peter’s expertise for help, the handy guillotine and some Snopake. He never said he was too busy.

The pottery was a focal point for both residents and traders. I don’t know how he managed to carry on a business considering all the interruptions but I learned to keep away when he had meetings in the back of his shop. Peter was a founder member of the N L Traders Association and worked so hard for the traders. He also continued to attend the NLCA meetings and worked to ensure that there were no conflicts between traders and residents.

Peter represented the North Laine traders on the City in Bloom working group and was a regular contributor. He also attended numerous other meetings and consultations on behalf of North Laine and all of Brighton & Hove.

I kept in touch with Peter after his move to Watermead, Aylesbury. He soon became well known in his new community and was involved with residents and artists. He carried on making pots, running workshops, attending craft fairs and other activities. He made a plaque for the local war memorial and will be remembered for his contribution to Watermead in many ways.

In spite of his illness Peter continued making pots. We kept in touch and he never once complained about his problem and was brave and determined to the end. He was so pleased to attend Cherry’s wedding in June, which was a very happy family day. I last met Peter earlier in 2015 in Pavilion Gardens, when the weather was so cold that we retreated to David’s kitchen to warm up with coffee.

Peter was at home until two weeks before he died, with Sally devotedly looking after him along with family and carers and he then moved to the hospice.

I have such happy memories of chatting and putting the world to rights in Peter’s pottery. He will be sadly missed by his many friends in Brighton and Hove.

By Gabrielle Villermet
On 06/01/2016

We were shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Peter Stocker whom we always referred to as Peter the Potter. We can remember when he had a stall on the open market selling his pottery. When they moved to the Trafalgar Street shop  Peter and his wife Sally became members of the NLCA and he was very active in fighting for the rights of residents and traders plus joining in the many social events we had. When Sally  got a teaching job in Buckinghamshire they unfortunately had to leave the North Laine. Peter often visited Brighton to keep in touch with North Laine friends and we will miss him. Our thoughts are with Sally and her family.

By Glynis Simpson & Jon Ward (North Laine residents)
On 07/01/2016

It is so sad to hear of the death of Peter Stocker, or Peter the Potter as many of us knew him.  He has contributed so much to North Laine over the years, and to Brighton as a whole.  When I was Secretary of NLCA I spent quite a few occasions sitting on the stool in Workshop Pottery, with a mug of coffee, asking for his advice or for information on a problem that had arisen.  He never failed to be helpful and was always welcoming.

Peter and a few trader friends first got together in the late 1980s when they were concerned by problems caused by rising rents for premises. The recession was hitting but rents were still high. He said that initially they got together to keep each other going. They talked to landlords and estate agents in order to try to keep rents within the reach of small local traders.  They formed the Traders Association (NLTA) with around 12 members and this has risen very significantly. 

They worked hard to improve the image of the North Laine, but Peter said that it had its perils.  He and his members did not want a ‘Theme Park North Laine’.  There was a danger that rents would soar even higher in that case, too much for small businesses, and anyway it was important to keep North Laine as a trading area.  They resisted small shops being knocked together to become large units.

The Laine is an area for small traders offering a range of goods quite different from the standard High Street. Better lighting came in. Bit by bit people moved in to flats above the shops. The area has changed - there are few fresh food shops now whereas North Laine had several butchers, grocers etc in the past but it is important, he said, that there is a variety of goods on offer.

All of this was in the focus of Peter, but he was also a good friend of the Community Association.  Indeed he was Chairman of NLCA in 1982.

But, above all, Peter was a family man.  All thoughts go to Sally and family.

By Maureen Brand
On 07/01/2016

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