David Kitchen, HR man who became a campaigner for South End Green
He ran a project to name a road in Hampstead after John Wyndham’s novel 'The Day of the Triffids'
15 March, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
IT was a romantic date that was meant to be memorable – and for David Kitchen, who has died aged 77, it certainly impressed his girlfriend Kate. He clambered into the cockpit of an aeroplane, started the engine and took her up into the skies.
He had learned to fly while at the University of Liverpool, and used his skill to woo his future wife. Other dates were in the more grounded surroundings of the Old Oak pub, in Gospel Oak. David, who lived for five decades in South End Green, was born in Liverpool in 1940.
Aged 11, he won a scholarship to study at St Mary’s College in Crosby and went on to win a place at university to study chemistry, before switching his studies to psychology. He then headed to London to take on a postgraduate degree in occupational psychology – living in digs in Savernake Road, which started a lifelong love of the NW3 area.
He carried his academic discipline into a career in personnel and human resources, working for global firms. He met Kate in 1962, when she was studying at Birkbeck, University of London. A mutual friend introduced them when David was lying in New End Hospital, in Hampstead, recovering from a stomach operation. He fell for her instantly and they married the following year.
They had three children, James, Clare and Madeleine, who grew up in Constantine Road. As a young man, he had been a keen ice skater – and in later years bought a pair of roller skates. He could sometimes be seen being dragged along by the family’s pet dog as he donned his skates to get about.
He could also be found playing tennis at Parliament Hill Fields. After retiring in 2000, David took on voluntary work with conservation charities. Environment issues were always close to his heart. An early member of South End Green Association (SEGA), which he chaired on many occasions, he played a role in the battle against plans in the late 1960s to build motorway fly-overs into the heart of London.
He was also fundamental to the SEGA-managed South End Green festival. Another community venture he supported as a volunteer was skippering the Tarporley – a narrowboat used to take children and community groups on trips through the canal network. Described himself as an old-school socialist, he was thrilled to discover Kate’s family were communist. After a pint, he would redefine his politics as being more in line with anarcho-syndicalism.
He spent 30 years attending night school classes, where he learned Russian and Welsh, and also to tap dance.
David, who suffered from prostate cancer, died peacefully at home on Sunday. Friends will remember a kind, thoughtful, gentle man who loved to chat long into the night. He was a friend to the New Journal, always ready to take a call and speak with authority on issues in his neighbourhood.
He recently ran a project to have an unnamed alley near his home, which features in John Wyndham’s novel, The Day of the Triffids, called Triffid Alley – a tribute both to his wide curiosity and ability to get things done for the good of all.
A celebration of David’s life will be held at 3pm on Wednesday, March 28, at Golders Green Crematorium West Chapel.