12 Days Remaining
Cuba Si! Chris Bartter (holding flag)

Monday 13th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

JOHN STEVENSON remembers an inspirational comrade who adopted Glasgow as his home

CHRIS BARTTER, who died on October 28 at the age of 64, was a huge, almost omnipresent, figure on Scotland's cultural, labour and trade union scene.

His towering physical height was considerable but what made an impression on people was his warmth, sensitivity, knowledge, intellect, creativity and his sense of fun. It was that humanity that led to such an outpouring of shock and devastation when his passing was announced.

In recent years, Chris was a regular and highly valued contributor to the arts and books pages of the Morning Star.

Cliff Cocker, the paper's arts editor, said: “His great knowledge of, and active participation in, left and progressive arts events enabled the paper to publicise, promote and report on culture in Scotland more comprehensively than in the past.

“Chris not only provided insightful reviews of the Edinburgh festival, Glasgow's May Day celebrations and FairPley theatre productions, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the wider international reach of Celtic Connections and the Glasgow-Havana film festival.

“Losing such invaluable input leaves a gap that the paper and those involved in progressive and working-class culture in Scotland and beyond will find hard to fill.”

Chris adopted Scotland. Born in north London, he moved to Dorking with his parents and sister Vanessa when he was 10 years old. On leaving school, he came to Glasgow to Strathclyde University. He started as a librarian in the Mitchell Library in 1975, met his partner Doreen — and stayed for the next 42 years.

They were both committed to learning, the arts, trade unionism and socialism. But most of all they were an accomplished double-act of sharp retorts — often at each other's expense — fun and great conversation.

In many years as a leading lay Nalgo activist, then as full-time communications officer, Chris devoted enormous energies to Unison and the trade union movement.

He didn’t just work in communications, he created the communications culture in the union by engaging, enthusing and training lay activists and he was always there to support them. For Chris, communications was not just publicity, it was organising.

He  became a proud Glaswegian, recently doing walking tours of the city's history, but he remained a dedicated and optimistic Tottenham Hotspur supporter. He achieved a feat few locals can manage in that he could sing — and often did — a full and perfect version of Hamish Henderson's The Freedom Come All Ye.

He chaired the 7:84 theatre company, played a huge part in reinstating Glasgow’s May Day as a festival and latterly, in what masqueraded as retirement, he was organising the launch of the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation and the Havana-Glasgow Film Festival. He was also a tireless Freedom of Information campaigner.

But he did not do this alone. He was part of a team that was he and Doreen. Matched in humour, kindness and commitment to the labour and trade union movement.

Our thoughts are with Doreen, his sister Vanessa, his nephews and his huge army of friends.

Chris's funeral takes place at 1.30pm today at Clydebank Crematorium, North Dalnottar, then at Oran Mor, Byres Road, Glasgow.