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East End bids sad farewell to people’s champion Barry Blandford

PUBLISHED: 12:25 17 July 2011 | UPDATED: 16:38 18 July 2011

Tearful son Paul (centre) and pall-bearers carry Barry Blandford's coffin into the chapel

Tearful son Paul (centre) and pall-bearers carry Barry Blandford's coffin into the chapel

Mourners drawn from political parties across the spectrum came to bid farewell in East London to the first-ever Mayor of Tower Hamlets to visit Bangladesh, following the 1991 floods, who died earlier this month.

The politicians were joined today (Friday) by 150 family members, friends and those whose lives were touched by Barry Blandford over the years.

His passing at 77 attracted tributes from Labour and Conservative figures as well as his own Liberal Democrats and leadfing members of the community from all over London’s East End.

“We all had respect for Barry Blandford,” said former Government minister Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour’s Poplar & Limehouse MP who knew him for 20 years.

“I met him when I was still in the fire brigade and he was on the London Fire Authority. Then I became an MP in 1997 and he was always there, lobbying, campaigning for the people of the East End—even though he was no longer on the council.

“Barry was a people’s champion, a committed councillor in his time who reached all parts of the community. Hundreds of thousands benefit because of the work he has done over the years.”

His coffin was carried into the City of London crematorium chapel at Manor Park by five pall-bearers—his son Paul Barry, brother David, sons-in-law David and Robin and daughter Allison’s partner Chris.

The secular service led by Pat Ward, from the Docklands Settlement on the Isle of Dogs that Barry was involved in, was led by readings from daughters Tracy and Allisun.

Paul Blandford told mourners in a moving address: “I contracted HIV in 1990 and my dad helped establish the Globe Centre in Stepney which provides direct support for people in East London living with or affected by it.

“I was proud of his commitment to the centre and to promoting awareness in the community of HIV-Aids.”

Tributes also came from community figures such as Catherine Zvegintzov from St Hilda’s centre in Bethnal Green’s Club Row, where Barry founded the East End’s pensioners’ forum.

Politicians present included Tower Hamlets Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds, Lib Dem Cllr Stephanie Eaton and Labour’s London Assembly budget chairman John Biggs.

Barry Blandford was mayor in 1991 when he visited Bangladesh soon after the floods—and made the relief appeal one of his charities that year.

He lost his seat on the council in 1994, but continued campaigning till the end of his life—even writing letters for people from his hospital bed, according to Cllr Golds.

The retired electrician who once worked down the Yorkshire coal mines was the spark that lit up the East End, extinguished on July 2 following a short illness.

He died peacefully at his daughter’s home near Chelmsford, surrounded by his family.

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The family are accepting donations for Barry Blandford’s favourite charities. Contact: Tracy on 07956-955804, or at tracdav@btopenworld.com

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