Tributes paid to 'champion of town'

A HEARTFELT tribute was today paid to Ipswich community leader Graham Plumbly, who fought to improve the lot of the underdog in the town.

A HEARTFELT tribute was today paid to Ipswich community leader Graham Plumbly, who fought to improve the lot of the underdog in the town.

Mr Plumbly died suddenly earlier this month after the emergency services had been called to a house on the Ravenswood development in the town.

Both the ambulance service and the police were called, but the Independent Police Complaints Committee looked into the incident and said no officers had acted incorrectly.

Now Mr Plumbly's friends and family have issued a statement speaking of their pride and love for a man who founded the CSV Media Clubhouse, the Venue for Ipswich campaign and Ipswich Community Radio - and who led the fight to help those struggling to stay in the town.

This tribute was written by Bruce MacGregor, of the CSV Media Clubhouse - an organisation Mr Plumbly fought hard to establish - on behalf of his friends and family.

“Graham Plumbly, who died unexpectedly on June 14, was an unassuming champion of Ipswich whose deeply-held convictions and far-sighted vision will live on in the community he loved.

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Graham was the founder of the Venue for Ipswich Campaign, of Ipswich Community Radio, and of the CSV Media Clubhouse and it was his courage and vision that lay behind the development of all these projects.

Many people will remember the list of bands that visited Ipswich during the VIC campaign including The Hot House Flowers and Inspiral Carpets - with Noel Gallagher acting as their roadie!

Ipswich Community Radio is one of the oldest community radio stations in the UK and as well as setting up the station in 1989 Graham organised the first community radio station outside broadcast in the UK as part of the Multi-Cultural Festival in Christchurch Park. Latterly he set up ICTV (Ipswich Community Television).

Graham lived all of his life in Ipswich and was an ardent supporter of the town and its multi-cultural community. Humanitarian, internationalist, philosopher, activist and intellectual - Graham was all of these things.

For him everything was possible, he was a visionary who always had a grasp of the big picture and without his selfless work promoting art, music, and community relations the town would be a much poorer place.

Graham's early life was focused on political activism. Driven by an innate sense of fairness and social justice he spent his time fighting for the poor and dispossessed.

His courage and passion meant he often led others in taking direct action. This included organising the occupation of the Venue for Ipswich Campaign offices in Commerce Chambers when threatened with eviction, which led to the local council providing office space at the old theatre in Tower Street.

From here VIC evolved into Ipswich Community Radio. Following years of campaigning and fundraising the station now broadcasts full-time on 105.7fm serving our flourishing multi-cultural and diverse community.

ICR is now a focus for education, learning and communication; providing a voice for communities that are often excluded. This was always Graham's dream and it was finally realised before his untimely death.

In 2002, as Partnership and Fundraising Manager for the charity CSV, Graham established the CSV Media Clubhouse in Prince's Street, Ipswich, which now stands as a monument to a man who dedicated his life to bringing communities closer together.

His principles of inclusiveness and openness have made the building the most diverse, creative and exciting project in Suffolk and it is now used by more than 40 nationalities.

Even when he was busy building the Clubhouse into a flourishing centre his commitment to doing what was right and taking direct action was undimmed.

During this time Graham organised the occupation of Ipswich Police station when Anvar Valiyev, a member of the CSV Media Clubhouse, was arrested by Immigration Officers who tried to deport him.

Graham led the campaign to ensure he was allowed to remain safely in England. Anvar is now a naturalised British citizen using his skills to immense positive effect in the local community.

Graham's work and personality touched the lives of thousands.

His openness and desire to include everyone has led to the establishment of hundreds of educational, arts, music and community projects in the town over a 20-year period.

Projects taking in everything from teaching refugees and asylum seekers English to initiatives supporting the rehabilitation of offenders are down to his vision and drive. Graham made sure many youth projects were accessible to those Suffolk young people who find it hard to access facilities.

Even when he ran his own business Graham always had a community focus. Barkers Community Convenience Stores famously stayed open 365 days a year, every year, and featured regularly in the Evening Star as a bastion and focal point for the community around Bramford Lane.

Graham was a devoted husband, son, brother, uncle, granddad, father and friend. He nursed his terminally-ill father through a long illness ensuring that his last days were spent in comfort and dignity. Graham's family are devastated by the loss of this gentle and compassionate man.

Recently married to Gemma, Graham also leaves four children who loved him dearly.

The family wanted to say: “He was a selfless, gentle, kind, caring, funny, strong-minded, unique man, and, a major influence in our lives. Our Rock.

“Your values, compassions and passions live through us and everyone else's heart you have touched. We love you and we are overly proud to call you our dad - Thank you.”

Carl Zacharia, a lifelong friend said: “This is the finest man I've ever met. A paragon of every superlative one can think of. Gentle, kind, generous - a true prince. He's done so much for Ipswich promoting art, music, and community relations.

“His entire life was spent helping other people and improving the town without any thought for himself. I've lost my best friend and so has Ipswich.”

Graham's funeral will be held at Ipswich Crematorium, Cemetery Lane on Thursday (July 3) at 12.30pm. This will be followed by a reception at the CSV Media Clubhouse (junction of Prince's Street and Portman Road) from 1.30pm. In the evening a musical celebration of his life will be held at the Steamboat Tavern.

Graham's family have requested that mourners do not send flowers but would prefer donations be made to Graham's chosen charity, Oxfam. Everyone will be welcome.

The family would like to thank the many people who sent tributes for Graham. His death is an irreplaceable loss to the people of Ipswich.”

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