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Political Mentor

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While many are still enjoying ‘Stories from the Hop Yard’, the team behind it, Catcher Media, has been thundering onward with its next film to be screened at Borderlines Film Festival in March next year: Carousel will delve deep into the Derek Evans photographic archive from the 1950s-1970s to explore the county’s enduring memories, from the May Fair to Hereford United FC and much more.

 

This one will again feature many familiar faces and the thread that connects them all is of course Derek Evans and his studio. It was in this context that we booked out Charlie’s Bar at the Left Bank  – good venue, gorgeous retro furnishings – for two days of filmed interviews. 

 

First among them was former Liberal parliamentary candidate Chris Green. Chris arrived onto the local political scene in 1975, after Hereford’s Liberal parliamentary candidate Brian Tannatt Nash, was sacked by the local membership. In his place 32-year-old journalist Chris was selected. Derek, an astute political operator, was key in Chris’ appointment and it marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship - and working relationship - between Chris and dyed-in-the-wool Liberal, Derek. 

 

Derek didn’t just vote Liberal, he lived and breathed it, acting as press man for several Liberal candidates over the decades in Herefordshire. First among them was ‘firebrand’ Frank Owen. Now largely forgotten in Herefordshire (though there is a cul-de-sac named in his honour), Owen was the county’s Liberal MP between 1929 and 1931. It’s curious he has little mention in the city’s historical record for he was an impressive man. After spending a career in journalism, including working for Fleet Street scion Lord Beaverbrook, and serving in the war, he returned to fight the Hereford seat in 1955, losing to the Conservatives. Was this the first time the two men met? We will never know. But it was Derek who acted as his PR man. By his side at rallies around the county; his knowledge of Herefordshire and his wide circle of contacts must have been a huge asset for Owen. 

 

Derek was there again four years later when a younger Robin Day took up the gauntlet and ran for the Herefordshire seat for the Liberals.

 

He wasn’t given an easy run. In his more successful television career, he faced the likes of Richard Nixon and Margaret Thatcher in the nation’s toughest inquisitor. But in his electoral run, he was certainly given a run for his money during an evening speech in High Town, to a baying mob of several hundred noisy and sometimes aggressive Young Conservatives. It was all for nothing however, and Day didn’t get elected, losing out to Conservative David Gibson-Watt. 

 

While never ambitious for the national political stage, Derek stayed local, acting as Councillor for several years and in that role played a pivotal role in getting the swimming pool built. The son of a Welsh miner, Derek stayed true to his liberal roots to the end of his life. Should there be a blue plaque with his name on somewhere? 

 

Find a screening of Carousel near you

 

By Marsha O'Mahony

 


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