‘A hero’s work is never done’: Gary Trowsdale speaks on late friend Richard Taylor’s legacy

Gary Trowsdale, ex-chief executive of the Damilola Taylor Trust and founder of the Spirit of London awards, pays tribute to his friend, Richard Taylor, Damilola’s father.

Gary spent three years as lead advisor to the all-party parliamentary commission into youth violence, whose report led to 21 English and Welsh violence reduction units emulating a successful model implemented in Scotland.

Gary said: “One of those moments in life that you’ll remember forever. Richard and I were sat mulling over plans for the 20th anniversary of the tragedy of Damilola’s ddeath when simultaneously our phones pinged with a news alert. 

“Boris Johnston is the new Prime Minister! We had two very different reactions.

“I’d never be able to forgive Mr Johnson for the way he’d orchestrated the vote leave campaign after I saw him give a speech at the guildhall explaining what a disaster leaving the EU and single market would be. 

“So while my reaction was one of “yuck” Richard’s was along the lines of “great news, congratulations to my great friend”. 

Damilola Taylor’s father, Richard, with his wife, Gloria, outside the Old Bailey after the Preddie brothers were convicted of his manslaughter (Picture: PA)

“To be fair to Mr Johnson, he’d been a big supporter of the Spirit of London awards, apart from trying to convince Richard to make me stage it at Shoreditch Town Hall instead of the main O2 Arena in 2012. “Gary’s too ambitious” he had told Richard at the time.

“Anyway, back to when Richard and I were sat planning the 20th anniversary of losing Damilola.

“’Have you still got Boris’ mobile?’ I asked Richard. ‘Yes look here it is’, he replied 

“Ten minutes later Richard’s phone pinged again and this time it was the newly installed UK Prime Minister agreeing to make Damilola’s heavenly birthday of December 7, a national day of hope.

“Damilola wrote about his hope for the world shortly before his tragic death, so creating the 20th anniversary around the word seemed entirely appropriate. 

“The PM giving the day officialdom through the office of Downing Street was the most wonderful empowerment, and for that I can forgive him much!

“On May 11, at Southwark Cathedral, we will pay our last respects to my great friend Richard Taylor, with a service commemorating his life and legacy. 

“Friends, family and dignitaries will assemble to be part of a magnificent service led by the imminent new chair of the Hope Collective board, Reverend Steve Chalke.

“Among the service of remembrance contributions will be the most awesome Beverley Knight who insisted to come and perform with the choir even though she has a matinee performance of her hit show “Sister Act” in the early afternoon.

Damilola Taylor (Picture: The Met)

“Bev performed for us at the Royal Albert Hall at the Spirit of London awards in 2011, and it’s going to have me in tears remembering how proud Richard was and how much he will love knowing she’s there for him again.

“Many members of the Hope Collective will travel in from all over the UK to attend the service. 

“The Hope Collective was born out of the opportunity to celebrate Damilola on December 7, each year and it is now the biggest independent partnership cohort in the U.K. dedicated to tackling poverty and inequality.

“The only true solution to tackle the violence affecting our poorest and most vulnerable communities is to level them up and that’s what the Hope collective is dedicated to achieving. 

“Damilola and now Richards’ own legacy will continue to have a huge societal impact.

“When Richard first visited the scene of the tragedy back in 2000. He said he’d been horrified to find the levels of poverty and inequalities and he made a pact then with his wife Gloria that this would become his life goal – to help nurture and support vulnerable kids not just in South London but across the UK.

“Of course this is how Dami’s attackers could have been described. It takes courage and humility to take on a pledge like that, especially when burdened with such personal pain and grief.

“I have many stories about the adventures Richard and I shared together. I am so proud we were able to stage a special Hope Hack for him in Peckham last December. The 24th Hope Hack we had staged across the UK in just over two and a half years. 

“Even though he’d been diagnosed as terminal with only months to live he took to the stage magnificently and spoke with his usual passion for change.

“We are now up to 31 Hope hacks and since we lost Richard everyone of them starts with a special tribute to him. 

“A hero’s work is never done they say and in many ways my great friend has only just started. 

“Rest in power Richard Taylor OBE.”

Pictured top: Richard Taylor, Gary Trowsdale outside No. 10 (Picture: PA, Gary Trowsdale)

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