Camden Council gets the usual amount of stick from its residents and from its business rate payers, but I want to praise the exceptional Councillor Richard Cotton who has recently stepped down as Mayor of Camden.
Lyndales have been in Camden ever since the firm was formed in 2000. In 2014, I qualified as a Camden Tour Guide and have had an enormous amount of fun showing people around the Borough and its incredible richness of places, institutions and people – many of them very famous.
I first met the Mayor in his parlour in July 2017 when he presented the newly qualified guides who had passed their exams to become Camden Tour Guides and members of the Camden Tour Guides Association (CTGA). It was a very hot day, but the Mayor’s natural warmth, hospitality, charm and genuine pleasure to be rewarding these newly qualified guides was plain for everyone to see.
A couple of days later, I was standing by the memorial plaque outside the British Medical Association to the July, 7th bombings in 2005; reading the names and recalling that dreadful day which affected everybody at the firm, and which will always remain in our individual memories.
Richard walked up and stood with me for a minute’s silence at 11am and then chatted about the day and how he intended to go round the other two sites, in Russell Square and at Kings Cross Station, to pay his respects and to think about the 52 people who died that day, and the thousands who were directly affected. This was the private caring individual. He came alone, quietly dressed, not in any ceremonial or political capacity.
I then got to know Richard reasonably well as we had a series of meetings as a result of my membership of CTGA. Camden always marks Holocaust Remembrance Week in February with a number of events, but Richard asked CTGA if a walk could be organised to celebrate Jewish culture in Camden.
I was lucky enough to get the commission and on a cloudy, but dry, day we assembled at JW3 (the Jewish cultural centre on the Finchley Road) and began a walk through Hampstead and Belsize Park, ending mid-afternoon at the Jewish Museum in Camden Town. Richard brought with him a number of his fellow councillors and colleagues and, to reciprocate for that walk, I organised the Camden Challenge a few weeks ago, where we raised more than £1,200 for Richard’s nominated charity, C4WS, which provides shelters in the winter months for the homeless.
Richard has been very busy raising money and awareness for C4WS throughout his year’s office. He held a string of events including a pancake race at Camden market, an evening with Ed Miliband at an Indian restaurant, a gala evening at a Cuban restaurant at The Stables in Camden market (where Lyndales donated a Will and I donated a walk as auction items), a boxing match and an evening with Alan Bennett.
His efforts for C4WS have been tireless and, as Mayor, I heard from so many people that he took his year’s office very seriously, promoting Camden at every turn, making sure that he visited schools and attending in excess of 400 separate events.
He told me on one of the walks, that if the event was in Camden he would never turn it down unless there was a clash of appointments that made it impossible.
He had a celebration reception in the Mayor’s parlour, where many spoke about his generosity and his warmth and I wanted to endorse from my own personal dealings with him, what a splendid example of public service Richard Cotton is.
He even threatened to come on the Camden Tour Guide course, although his knowledge of all things Camden seems to me to be encyclopaedically magnificent already. Instead, the former Mayor is going to have a well-deserved rest, although I suspect it will be impossible to keep him from contributing his tireless support for C4WS and his devotion to public services for the benefit of the community.
Stan Harris OBE