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Archive for the ‘Hidden Talent’ Category

Obituary: Donald Rider, Managing Director of Rassells Garden Centre, Earls Court Road

We were very sad to hear about Donald Rider’s death, albeit not totally unexpected. He had been ill for a number of years but in recent months it was evident that at 92, his usual six days a week working at his beloved Rassells was getting more difficult.

There are not many people who devote such service in their life to one business. Donald arrived at Rassells in 1935 as an apprentice on 5 shillings a week – and with the exception of the war period had been there ever since.  I first met him in 1999 when I would wistfully walk around the garden centre wishing I had more than a studio flat to do justice to his wonderful array of roses and camellias.   In 2007 he gamely agreed to be reviewed for the magazine and we had an entertaining time interviewing each other (the magazine was in its infancy – it was only the fourth edition).  He was a very kind supporter of this magazine, and was a creature of habit.  He would advertise, with a half page, every September and October, and occasionally in the May.  One year he was rather excited and thought he’d try advertising a rather rare tulip.  He was thrilled when he received an enquiry from Australia!

Donald had no immediate family thus the staff at Rassells, including Jocelyn who had worked with him for the past 47 years were his family.  Some years ago Mary came to live in the flat above the shop premises; she has been with him since then acting in all manner of capacities, a companion, a friend, a helper and everything else.  In memory of Donald she has arranged a wonderful ‘wall of tribute’ to him which is in the main entrance of the shop on the back wall (anticipated to be there during September and perhaps part of early October, dependent upon the bulbs).  Images and newspaper cuttings show a dapper Donald besides his various sports cars, Donald with various cats (particularly ‘Whiskers’ an ardant fan of the nursery and a very sociable resident of the square, who invited himself to parties and pretty much any event he thought would be fun!), and Donald with various girlfriends and friends over the years.  This small, simple tribute is very heart warming. It shows Kensington at its best.  As a village and a strong community.  There is a book to sign – the well known or unknown folk of Kensington – have signed and it is a tribute to Donald’s modest and charming nature that he touched so many folk in Kensington.

Rassells will continue to serve the community of Kensington – it is still the only garden centre in the area, and as such we should cherish it.  The staff – or ‘Donald’s family’, will continue to serve you with the courtesy, passion and expertise Donald gave each and every one of his clients.

Image copyright: Lucy Elliott/The Kensington Magazine

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The Kensington Magazine meets Dorrit Dekk – One of Kensington’s oldest artists

We met Dorrit Dekk, a delightful ‘older’ resident of Kensington as we wanted to interview her for our Hidden Talent page in the June edition. Dorrit still paints regularly, mainly using gouache and collage. Her work, as can be seen below, are bright and fun and at 94 she has just held a most successful private exhibition – her work is gaining fast in popularity.

Originally of Czech descent she moved to Austria and studied at the Kunstgewerbe Schule from 1936 – 1938.   Sadly the war intervened and her professor encouraged her to leave as the school was no longer allowed to take Jewish students.   She came to London with her mother and brother and Dorrit continued her studies at the Reimann School.   Her best known and recognised work is probably that which she did whilst at the Central Office of Information from 1946-1948 which included the well known ‘Coughs & Sneezes’ poster.

From the 1950s she ran her own very successful design practice. One day a chance conversation led her to designing a stand entitled ‘People at Play’ for the Land Traveller part of the Festival of Britain. The subject of the stand was British Sports and Games and included a large mural across the stand. This proved enormously popular and Dorrit is one of the few surviving contributors to the Festival of Britain exhibition.  (A video interview of her for the anniversary of the Festival of Britain can be seen on You Tube.)

Dorrit has lived in Airlie Gardens since the 1960s and as such she is one of the few people who can remember the beautiful Victorian water tower and the line of oak trees (now Kensington Heights). From her roof garden she used to be able to see as far as Highgate Cemetery.  It still clearly irks her that in the 1970s Sir John Betjeman would not support a band of women chaining themselves to the oak trees in order to prevent the planning permission of Kensington Heights!

The paintings below are of Uxbridge Street and Hillgate St. Kensington.  The latter featuring on our June 2011 front cover.

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Willoughby Wynne

We were very sad to hear the news of the recent death of Willoughby on Saturday 22 January. Willoughby was a great character around Kensington. He enjoyed company and was well known (and appreciated) for his social skills. He chaired the Cherry Trees Association for many years, insisting on walking around Kensington with all the invitations, (usually on the afternoon of the party), and refused to use stamps even when given to him! He had a dry sense of humour and was a complete gentleman. Sadly when his beloved wife, Carys died, his spirit was crushed although he tried to keep on. He will be remembered very fondly by those who knew him.