Years before I came to work alongside her I would see Judy Dainton sitting outside our local watering holes, The Pakenham Arms and the Calthorpe Arms — always with her small dog and always smoking.
She was, in my view, the epitome of an old-school, Fleet Street hack. As it turns out, one of her first jobs was as a journalist for The Lady.
In October 2014 I heard her speak at the Mount Pleasant Association deputation to Boris Johnson at the Greater London Authority (GLA). It was then that I first became aware of her community activism and great eloquence on such matters.
As a community activist myself I was asked to join the Mount Pleasant Neighourhood Forum soon after that 2014 deputation and this is when I got to know her.
Judy was feisty and even fierce at times which did not go down well with some, but that never bothered her. She was focussed on the work and not herself. She certainly did not suffer fools gladly and in return did not expect anything from anyone. She could sniff out anyone who was self interested and was unafraid of making herself unpopular.
She was also very good at listening to people, asking a lot of questions and ergo getting the best information that got to the heart of the matter.
This kind of diplomacy mixed with thick skin was particularly useful in the forming of the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood Forum since its designated areas crosses two London Boroughs, Camden and Islington. Two councils and two sets of rules makes for more work, but as she would say: “Onwards!”
The Forum is crucial to the WC1X area right now as it is an area of cumulative development (which basically means lots of large developments going on at once). The Forum is there to give voice and protection to the existing community but it also serves the incoming developers well too. The aim is for optimal outcomes for all — it is a body to help join up the dots as it were. This Judy knew better than most. She had great foresight.
Dealing with developers and their wider teams is not dissimilar to entering the world of politics I have discovered. There are careerists and there are those who just want the best outcomes for everyone. Most profess to be the latter though in truth many are the former and soon move on.
For example the team for the UCL Estates redevelopment of the Eastman Dental Hospital is now almost completely different to the one we were talking to before it was granted planning permission (and it is of note that due to the existence of the Forum they came to us first). All those who hand on heart told us how much they “really cared” about it (their actual words!) have moved on and are now nowhere to be seen. We had to deal with several incidences of being shouted down in meetings, too, which eventually made Judy understandably cantankerous.
However, her intelligence was fierce and she was incredibly knowledgable about planning (having studied it) as well as many other things so after all she was usually proven to be right.
It was a huge pleasure and privilege to work with Judy. She was empathetic, funny, witty, sharp, passionate, dedicated, hard working and inspirational. She was a neighbour and a good friend and will be sorely missed.
There will be remembrance drinks for Judy on Tuesday 8 March 2022 from 5pm at the Calthorpe Arms, Grays Inn Rd, London WC1X 8JR. There is a fundraiser to create a memorial for Judy at the Calthorpe Community Garden.