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Lois Peltz: A life in Mayfair

The artist and former independent councillor has lived in West End 'haven' for 50 years

05 May, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Lois Peltz

Lois Peltz moved to Mayfair from the Wirral in 1968 and has stayed there ever since, living in the same flat for nearly 50 years.

In that time she has done her fair share to try to make a difference as the chairwoman of the Residents’ Society of Mayfair and St James’s (RSMSJ) and a former independent councillor for the West End.

“It was beautiful, quiet, residential,” she recalls of her arrival. “It had a village feel even though it was in the middle of London and just minutes from Oxford Street. It was a haven.”

But things were not perfect.

She said: “At the time, some people didn’t have indoor lavatories here in Mayfair. I felt so strongly about the difficult lives people were leading.”

Ms Peltz became a founder member of the Residents’ Association of Mayfair, the predecessor of today’s RSMSJ, and was then a councillor for 12 years.

Neither political party appealed at the time as she “didn’t want to be subject to a party whip”.

“I don’t believe one should promise one thing and do another,” she said.

At the time, she felt politicians “cared more about buildings than people”.

Ms Peltz studied art and would go on to become a porcelain artist and painter. She met her husband-to-be, a medical student at Trinity College, while visiting her aunt in Dublin. “We got married the day after he qualified,” she said.

Her husband was keen to run a GP practice in Soho. It is where he had been “born and bred” as his mother had owned a shop and two stalls in Berwick Street selling ladieswear.

But Ms Peltz did not feel it was somewhere she could raise their two young children as, at the time, Soho was “almost a no-go area”.

Angered by the unregulated and uncontrolled “vice trade” in Soho, as a councillor she fought to have licensing and registration brought in for establishments such as sex shops.

“There was no licensing till we brought it about,” she said. “We are a footnote in history. They had to bring it in across the country after that.”

She was supported by fellow independent councillor and Mayfair resident, Brigadier Gordon Viner.

“As independent councillors we had a lot of influence, but very little power,” said Ms Peltz. “It was difficult, but I enjoyed it.”

Temporary office permissions in Mayfair were another battle.

“During the war, the city was bombed so they looked for nearby buildings they could operate from. But they kept extending the length of time, so people couldn’t come back to Mayfair,” she explained. This wasn’t fully resolved until 1989.

Getting rid of rubbish in Soho, helping design Chinatown and Gerrard Street, and opening up planning committee meetings to the public were also issues she was involved with.

“We fought on every issue possible,” she said. Ms Peltz also got the RSMSJ listed as an official amenity society, and now has urged people to join the group.

“We should come together under our umbrella. We would be stronger,” she said.

Ms Peltz has many hats: a porcelain artist and former illustrator who designed covers for educational tapes; an honorary doctor for Technicon, a technology university in Israel; a former activist who once protested a visit from the former Mayor of Moscow with a banner that read “let my people go”.

But it is her work in the community for which she is perhaps best known. “I believe our duty on Earth was to make life better,” she said.

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