Richard Stainton was found dead on Monday January 4th, and many in Whitstable will miss him. He was someone who chose to take an active part in all the things that mattered to him. It’s such a cliché to say ‘he tried to make a difference,’ I’m sure he would never have phrased it quite that way! It seemed more like a passionate caring for things, and that overspilled into action.
And he cared about so many things things! Kent education, libraries and museums, Palestine, politics, peace, literature festivals, local issues, and anything big or small that improved our town. His actions involved letters to the paper, tweets to spread information, petitions, council meetings, organising events and demonstrations, and simply engaging people with his enthusiasm for any cause. I know his actions had impact, and he influenced many people who crossed his path.
There are many campaigners for causes, but it was his dignified style of his campaigning that I most respect. Many people who feel passionately about an issue get so wound up they think ‘I must be right’ and that tunnel vision alienates people. Richard and I disagreed on a few things, but I always felt he listened. His style of debating was a patient presentation of facts, intelligent points, and a respect for the opposing view.
Our politics were poles apart but he did not write me off as ‘the enemy’ instead we got on with working on something we both felt needed attention. In recent weeks we were working on a new group to highlight issues with Kent’s eleven plus and grammar school selection.
Up until the day he died he was helping with our group’s first meeting. He sent an email to suggest a change in the agenda. It was a good point, and I changed the agenda. Now when that item comes up I will need to be strong and get on with things..! It feels awful that we meet tomorrow without him.
Our last email exchange was about the purpose of the group and the name to call it. I wish he’d answered my last email, I think we would have called the group anything he suggested! I know that he cared passionately about this cause, had a good mind, and a skill for getting attention for things. We will miss his campaigning skills enormously.
Richard’s take on education was certainly more ideological than mine, he wanted a grand plan, where perhaps I might accept practical improvements. However I will not forget his wishes and ideology, and I hope our group will turn into something he would be proud of.
He was a great one for letters to the paper, and often sent me scans of education debates in Kent papers. Yesterday I was given a quick deadline to write something about Kent education in influential magazine Schools Week. I got up at 6am, worked like crazy, and hit send at 9am on the hastily written, heartfelt, article. It was such a strange day, it started with pride and ended with sadness. Just a few hours later I heard Richard had died. He would have loved to know we got Kent education in that paper! I think he would have enjoyed scanning that one for his clippings collection.
I will do my best to do good work for this cause we both believe in. If anyone else has an interest in helping do get in touch. Though I think a better message is to simply say if you care about something take one small action to do with it. Richard took many small actions, and that led to a fine life of acting on beliefs and getting things done. Our town will be a lesser place without his presence, and the Whitstable Gazette won’t be the same without his letters.
I’ll miss you Richard.