Tributes paid after death of Crawley woman who bravely took on the National Front

A WONDERFUL WOMAN:  Barbara Martin stood up to racism at a time when National Front members were holding demonstrations

A WONDERFUL WOMAN: Barbara Martin stood up to racism at a time when National Front members were holding demonstrations

A CRAWLEY woman who spent nearly 40 years standing up to racism in the town has been described as a “wonderful woman” with “a beautiful mind” after her death.

Having the courage to speak out against racism and prejudice should never be undervalued in any era, but Barbara Martin did it at a time when racial tensions were much more intense.

In 1976 she and her son, Danny, founded Crawley Campaign Against Racism (CCAR) to confront gangs of National Front members who were regularly demonstrating in the town centre.

Danny was being treated for cancer at the time by doctors of all races and brought like-minded people together to set up a group to counteract what the National Front was doing in Crawley.

 When he died just eight months later, Barbara took on the task of spreading the group’s influence and fighting against any prejudice she saw.

Barbara, who lived in Three Bridges, died on Saturday, February 28, aged 87, and her long-term friend and fellow member of CCAR Queenie Hopcroft has described her as “an inspiration”.

The 84-year-old, from Hollybush Road, Three Bridges, said: “When we started out CCAR was a tiny organisation with no money.

“Because of Barbara’s beautiful mind and beautiful thinking, here we are 40 years later still going strong.

“Today I see signs of fascism on the rise. If ever we needed Barbara’s way of thinking it is now and I just hope that what she did has touched enough people that her legacy will continue.”

Another member of CCAR, Manny Sanun, came to Crawley from Singapore in 1970 when he was 12. He saw the demonstrations against immigrants coming through Gatwick in the mid 1970s.

He said: “What Barbara did was very brave. She actually went out and demonstrated because the National Front were doing the same in the town centre.

“Nowadays, you can’t say things about people which are racist because there are laws which protect you from that kind of abuse, but in the 1970s you could say those things.

“Barbara would always challenge someone if they said something which was racist and tell them they were wrong.”

The 57-year-old, who lives in Hermits Road, Three Bridges, added: “She treated everyone equally no matter what religion or background they came from.

“She saw people differently. She didn’t judge you in any way and had time for people. She was just a very, very nice person.”

CCAR spawned the Crawley Interfaith Network, which was set up by Queenie to teach people about each other’s faiths in order to promote acceptance.

While Queenie and Barbara spent nearly four decades promoting these values, theirs was far more than just an ideological connection.

Queenie, who met Barbara when she was studying A-level sociology at Crawley College at the start of the 1960s, said: “She was a wonderful woman.

“The laughs we had and the daft things we have done; I can’t even tell you.

“Whenever we met up we just killed ourselves laughing. We were very close and in all that time we never once fell out or exchanged a bad word. How many people could you ever say that about?”

If you would like to pay your own tribute to Barbara Martin, e-mail us at editor@ crawleynews.co.uk

From Crawley News Report by Dave Comeau. 15.03.15.

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