Large gathering bids farewell to Stuart Monro

Stuart Monro filming in Wanstead Park in 2014.

The funeral of Stuart Monro, filmmaker and founder of the campaign for Wanstead Park, was held yesterday, 22 September 2017, at the City of London Crematorium in Manor Park.

Entrance to the City of London Cemetery, seen across Alexandra Lake.

The packed hour-long ceremony was attended by more than 160 people, many of whom had to stand. As well as friends and family, they included people who had worked with Stuart on his many projects, along with representatives of the political causes and campaigns in which he had been involved.

The new crematorium, where the funeral ceremony was held.

Several members of the original Wanstead Parklands Community project were present, as well as many from the Friends of Wanstead Parklands. The City of London was represented by Paul Thomson, Superintendent of Epping Forest, in recognition both of Stuart’s contribution to the Wanstead Park project and the outstanding series of films which he made about the park and aspects of the wider Forest.

Richard Arnopp made a brief contribution on behalf of the Friends –

“I have been honoured to be asked by Stuart’s family to say a few words on behalf of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands. This is all the more so as I was a relative latecomer to the campaign for the park. I became involved a mere decade ago when it had already been underway for some time!

Stuart Monro was effectively founder of the campaign for Wanstead Park. In 2005 he contacted several people who were interested in the park’s history and concerned at its poor condition. This was the genesis of what became the Wanstead Parklands Community Project, which in turn was later subsumed into the Friends of Wanstead Parklands.

Thus, an informal group of about a dozen people has become transformed into an organisation with hundreds of members, which is working in partnership with the park’s custodians and other stakeholders to develop long-term plans for the future of this unique landscape and local amenity.

Although Stuart became less actively involved in recent years, the cause of Wanstead Park remained dear to his heart. Within the last few days, the evolving Parkland Plan – seven years in gestation so far – has begun its journey through the City of London’s committee processes. A successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund next year would be a fitting memorial to a man whose knowledge, ability to get people to work together, legendary hospitality and brilliant film-making skills set the ball rolling all those years ago”. 

After the ceremony, the party adjourned to Wanstead Park, where they gathered in the evening sunlight in front of the tea hut, one of Stuart’s favourite places.

Tricia Moxey, a founding member (and Chairman) of the Community Project who has remained active in the Friends, spoke as follows –

“Welcome to Wanstead Park, a place where Stuart and members of his family spent a great deal of time.

This is a wonderful place steeped in a long a varied history and its successive owners provided Stuart with a great opportunity to tell its fascinating story and to showcase its breath-taking beauty, its hidden charms, its wildlife and of course the folk who care for it now.

Earlier this afternoon we have heard much of Stuart’s exploits during his long life, but here we can sample the calming and healing influence of the Park he loved.   Currently, there is much mention of the importance of Parks and green open spaces as they provide the essential link with the natural world which should be a vital part of being human. Stuart was at the forefront of using the medium of film to document why people loved the experience of being outside, meeting up with the natural world.    

His many videos are an important legacy and I learnt a great deal about the methodology of their production as he was essentially a one-man band, being director, production manager, cameraman and post-production editor all rolled into one.   He had an idea of what he wanted to record, but those of us who were captured by his enthusiasm had to work largely with our own scripts and very few takes to provide him with the raw material which he then skilfully edited to produce the final version.   

He had a knack of getting us to ignore the camera and be our natural selves, expressing our own enthusiasm for our subject matter, good-humouredly ignoring our “umms” and “errs” or fits of giggles. It was the spontaneity of his filming which was so important, capturing such moments as the mass release of the homing pigeons on Wanstead Flats, the comments from those running the Fair on the Flats, the sunlight shining through leaves, the excitement of children meeting cattle, views across the lakes, fishing, archaeological excavations, guided walks or discussion groups.  His videos are wonderful, vibrant and tell such tales. They are an important record of social interactions and the surrounding landscape.

He had a special interest in the Grotto, filming its condition and producing wonderful schemes for its possible reconstruction.

Stuart brought together the group who founded the Wanstead Community Project and we worked in collaboration to promote the Park as a wonderful location for all to enjoy.  This organisation merged with the Friends of Wanstead Parklands and we are now actively engaged in getting the Park off the “At Risk” Register and we are happy to continue the work that Stuart initiated ensuring that his legacy lives on.

Finally, please take a few minutes to enjoy the healing tranquillity of the Park and remember our treasured friend Stuart”.

The party then returned to Stuart and Charlotte’s home in Belgrave Road, where the family had set up displays of photographs illustrating Stuart’s family life and causes. Fortunately, the pleasant autumn weather allowed the large number of guests to spread out into the garden. The generous hospitality reminded many of those present of a happier occasion – Stuart’s last big birthday party three years previously. It was an evening of recollections, reflection and fond remembrance of a remarkable man.