Mike Marchant 1949-2009
A tribute by Tony Tuck, chair of the Battersea Society
The Battersea Society lost a very good friend in November 2009 when Mike Marchant died of cancer in Eastbourne. Although only 60 years old, he crammed more lives into those brief years than many of us could catch up with.
For the Battersea Society he was ostensibly a ‘backroom boy’. He first came to attention in 2005 when he offered to help with graphics and the Newsletter. Even at our first meeting I knew he was special. Not only did the two of us resonate in an indefinable way, but ideas and possibilities showered from him as from a Catherine Wheel. Swiftly he designed the Society’s letterhead, revamped the Newsletter layout and indulged in journalism with his ‘Battersea Ranter’ column. Suddenly putting a newsletter together with Mike became a fun thing to do. Perhaps he never came to a formal meeting, but his spirit ran through the Society’s public face.
Mike’s Facebook entry says merely for his activities, “I manage bands and am a record producer.” (It also has his favourite quotation as being “If you want to make God laugh - tell Him your plans”). Being with him you never quite knew where conversation would lead. I recall visits for editorial meetings only to be sat down while he played back the latest work of the group that he managed, or share the pleasure of listening to variations in instrumental backings as a new work was designed.
Mike’s talents went much further in Battersea’s various communities . For example, he designed and produced one of the annual reviews for the Sir Walter St John’s Educational Charity. Undoubtedly his master work was to produce the DVD Red Battersea, illustrating the first hundred years of Battersea Labour Party. I remember the fun we had tracking down fragments of film to include. His special pleasure at finding a film of Caroline Ganley, MP for Battersea in 1945-61; the joy in playing back early recordings by local actors, including Tim West, Prunella Scales and Su Elliott.
I recall the first showing of the early chapters in Portcullis House of the House of Commons before a room full ofparliamentarians and people from Battersea. A perfectionist, Mike had made six different copies of the DVD as he was unhappy with the initial sound qualities as they played in the room’s acoustics. The December 2008 showing of the complete film at the Clapham Picture House, and the master class afterwards, will long be remem-bered by all who were there.
Professor Penelope Corfield, who wrote the DVD script, collaborating with Mike in its production at every stage, said of Mike in an essay on the making of the DVD:
“He was a brilliant, creative, funny, passionate, caring man, with a real commitment to community politics. He had many interests in his life, from music-making to graphic design. All these interests came together in the making of the DVD, which would have been completely impossible without his creativity, dedication, technical wizardry, meticulous application, and total gusto.”
Although prepared to expostulate on anything within the range of thought or language, Mike was a quietly private man on personal matters. While he rarely spoke about this, he was immensely proud of his wife Margaret and her work as a teacher. He also saw her as the central core that enabled him to be so creative over such a wide canvas. That is why, while Red Battersea was probably his last artistic triumph, his last personal and deeply significant achievement was to move house from Battersea to Eastbourne.
As his brother-in-law, Tim McClure, said at his funeral:
“And finally he made it to Eastbourne: by a series of minor miracles he was able to fulfill his dream of moving with Margaret to the coast; it is sad that his failing physical strength meant that he could not enjoy the experience for long. However, alongside the diminishing of his body in the last days before he died, there emerged a distillation of the essential Mike: a person entirely without bitterness or resentment, entirely gracious, welcoming, warm, generous, interested, loving.
Thank God for a man whose fullness of life brought life and joy to many others and left many the richer for having known him.”