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‘Unique’ Alice, Holloway’s queen of the political banner

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joins tributes to former school teacher described by pal as a 'feisty friend and comrade'

21 February, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Alice Kilroy, a proud council tenant who lived in Alexander Road, went on many demonstrations with the Stop the War Coalition

THE memory of Alice Kilroy will live on at rallies, protests and marches, thanks to many banners she created for left-wing groups, unions and socialist causes.

The former school teacher and bookkeeper, who died on Monday aged 68, used a lightweight netting material so the banners could easily be carried around.

She created the black cat banner for the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition (DWHC) – which she campaigned for throughout the past 10 years – Notting Hill Carnival, the Stop the War Coalition and one for Islington Labour proudly stating “Home of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn”.

Ms Kilroy with Jeremy Corbyn

Mr Corbyn said in tribute: “During the election campaign we had an NHS event outside the Whittington Hospital and it wasn’t the biggest event of the campaign but for me it was one of the most poignant because Alice, despite dying of cancer, wanted to come, and came and stood in front of the Whittington banner. And we talked about the NHS and how important it was for the lives of all of us.”

Born in Birmingham, Alice was brought up on a farm in Pembrokeshire, west Wales, later moving to Bristol before coming to London to train as a teacher at the North London Polytechnic.

She taught secondary school level maths at the Jewish Free School and later worked as a primary supply teacher for Islington schools, including Yerbury, where her only daughter, Stephanie Sutherland, was a pupil.

Stephanie said: “She always had some weird interest. For instance, she was a member of the British Bulgarian Friendship Society.

“She had a lot of friends in Bulgaria and we would always go on summer holidays in the 1980s, while it was still communist. She was clear – she wasn’t a communist, she was a socialist. That kind of interest faded away in the 90s, she became interested in the Carnival and then we started going to the Caribbean. So in the 80s it was communist Bulgaria, the 90s it was the Caribbean. After that it was the Iraq war, and that’s when mum got really political.”

She added: “She never liked Tony Blair, or that kind of direction of Labour. That was when she became very, very politically involved.”

Ms Kilroy, a proud council tenant who lived in Alexander Road, Holloway, for 35 years, went on many demonstrations with the Stop the War Coalition and took part in sit-down protests against Guantanamo Bay outside the US Embassy.

Ms Kilroy displays one of her banners at a meeting

She worked as a bookkeeper for the Stop the War Coalition, which said it was “devastated” by her death, adding: “Over the years she did so much for our movement, from banner-making to working in our office running our stall at Tolpuddle Festival and so much more.”

She was among the founders of the DWHC and memorably unfurled a banner behind the NHS Trust’s board at a crunch meeting during a privatisation campaign.

DWHC chairwoman Shirley Franklin remembered her “feisty friend and comrade”, adding: “She was a brilliant fighter for peace, socialism and social justice. She was our very rigorous treasurer. Big thanks to Alice for your tireless work for a better world.”

Alice was also a regular at Housmans bookshop in Caledonian Road, which said: “So incredibly sad to learn of the death of legendary and veteran banner-maker Alice Kilroy, including our beautiful green tablecloth.”

Martin Kilroy, the youngest of her three brothers, her younger sister Catherine Kilroy, Martin’s wife Judith and Stephanie’s husband Stephen Elphick yesterday recalled her love of the outdoors and how she “did a lot of trampling” around New Zealand, during a visit last year when she was diagnosed with cancer. She would also go to Scotland and take part in archaeological digs.

“We never knew where she was,” said Stephanie. “She was unique and special. We are all really proud of her.”

A green funeral will be held for Ms Kilroy but a date has not yet been set.

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