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Ken Savage, pensioner campaigner whose art hangs on the walls of Royal Free

Campaigner with deep sense of social justice chained himself to a bus in Oxford Street protest

21 June, 2017 — By Eric Gordon

KEN Savage, who was imbued all his life with a deep sense of social justice, has died at 94.

He was born in a poor part of Kentish Town, left school at 14, and then for the rest of his life was marching and demonstrating for humanitarian and left-wing causes, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and as a pensioner for a better life for the elderly.

He helped to run a London body for pensioners and played a significant part in the national pensioners’ movement. He expressed his views through action and on two occasions stopped traffic in Oxford Street, once by protesting against the austerity policy and chaining himself with other pensioners to a bus.

The other time was in the early 1950s when he protested against the imminent execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the US. He obviously also had a very creative mind and, as an optical frame-maker, made the famous glam glasses for Dame Edna Everage and David Bowie.

A man of many parts, Mr Savage was a great fan of Arsenal, who he followed throughout his life starting during the war when he took his wife Kit to see them get beaten at home by Reading. Cricket was his other passion, and whenever possible he would see Middlesex play at Lord’s as well as Test matches there.

After retirement he took up painting – four of his pieces hang on the walls of the Royal Free hospital where he spent his last days. One of his cartoons, deriding the privatisation of the NHS, hangs in Jeremy Corbyn’s office. But he always found time as a dedicated Communist to support the radical wings of Labour and became friendly with Mr Corbyn and John McDonnell who expressed their condolences to his family as soon as they heard of his death.

Where does a man like Ken Savage first develop his feelings of rebelliousness? He was born on the top floor of a tenement house in Haverstock Road, the third of six children. His brother Ray was tragically killed at six by a reversing dust-cart. Then many of his family were killed in one of the heaviest raids of the Blitz – his grandmother, uncle and aunt, and their three year-old daughter.

After leaving school at 14 he started to work first for an optical firm, later for manufacturers of musical instruments, and then back again to optics, a field he worked in for the rest of his life, including steering his own company and pioneering glam glasses used by stage and film stars.

In the Second World War he fought as a tank gunner, and it was during the war he married Kit. They were together for 67 years until her death in 2010. Naturally, after the war he demonstrated against the anti-Semitic Mosleyites wherever they spoke.

With Ken Savage there were endless social causes to campaign for, filled with a hope that all would change for the better. His family report how, as a lifelong socialist, he was able to grin with delight after the general election when his older daughter Carole brought him the news at the Royal Free that Jeremy Corbyn had done well, and the government had lost its majority.

The funeral of Mr Savage, who leaves a sister Margaret and three children, Carole, Gillian and Bob, will take place on Friday at 11am at Golders Green crematorium.

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