Michael Foot was a towering figure in British politics. He represented Plymouth Devonport from 1945-55 at a time where our city lay in ruins and the task of rebuilding was paramount. He rose to become the Leader of the Labour Party, but had also achieved great things in terms of journalism and literature. Born in Plymouth, he was one of our greatest sons.
On Friday, January 18, the appeal for a lasting memorial to Michael Foot was launched.
The plan is to raise £60,000 solely from public subscriptions to provide a memorial to Michael in Freedom Fields Park. The location of the memorial is important. Just opposite the house in which he was born in 1913 and in the same park as his father, Issac, used to address huge crowds, this memorial will be a place for people to remember Michael. It was a place close to Michael’s heart and somewhere that has proud links to the history of our city, its independence and its position in the world.
I’m the only member of the Michael Foot Memorial Appeal Committee who didn’t meet Michael in some capacity, although I once saw him from a distance. Family members, councillors, friends and family have all contributed their memories of one of Plymouth’s most important political figures. But this memorial is not simply a place to remember Michael and recall interactions, speeches you may have heard or his words you may have read. It is also a place for people, like me and my generation and all who follow, who didn’t know him personally, to discover him. You can share your memories of Michael on our website and on our Facebook page.
Michael was a towering figure not only in politics, but in literature and journalism too. He held heartfelt passions and convictions with such determination and focus. None of these passions were as strong, so I have been told, as his love for Plymouth, our city, its people and our football club. Peter Jones, the appeal’s chairman, told a story at the launch of the appeal on Friday about the final time he saw Michael before he died. Above all, Michael wanted to ask whether his beloved Plymouth Argyle would win at Barnsley. He was an Argyle supporter and proudly so. He loved Plymouth and whether you believed in his politics or not, it is hard to say that he was not a figure who made a lasting impact in Plymouth.
The memorial will be unveiled on the 100th anniversary of Michael’s birth in Freedom Fields Park. This gives us only six months to raise the money, source the stone, choose his words, engrave them and place the memorial in place. That’s quite a task but for such an important figure in Plymouth’s history, it is a challenge worth rising to.
We can all contribute to the memorial. You can find out how to make a donation online at www.michaelfoot.org. Thanks to Plymouth City Council you can make secure online donations via their website. The memorial will also feature some of Michael’s words. A man of wisdom and literature, he was prolific in writing and we want to use some of those words on his memorial so his work can stand alongside his name as something to be valued and remembered.
Plymouth has a proud history and it is right we remember all those figures who have helped shape our present day lives, whatever their politics. For me as a Labour Member Michael means something special, for others he will be known for his never-yielding optimism about Plymouth Argyle, others will remember his time on the Evening Standard during the war. However, you remember him, please contribute to a lasting memorial so that we all have a place to remember his contribution and to discover his work and his contributions.
• Follow the Michael Foot Memorial on Twitter @mfootmemorial