Tim Burke obituary

Other lives: Activist, film-maker, writer, agent provocateur and flaneur

The activist, film-maker, writer, agent provocateur and flaneur, my friend Tim Burke, who has taken his own life aged 55, fought hard for “justice 4 Grenfell”. He was profoundly affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in west London, and continually railed against what he saw as the venality of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

In the early hours of 14 June last year, Tim was at the Latymer Christian Centre where survivors had gathered, sending out urgent requests for money, food and water. He said that it was a terrible sight, every inch of space taken by people silently sitting, saying nothing, in the clothes they had escaped in, reeking of smoke.

In July last year he helped organise a charity art auction to raise funds for the former Grenfell tenants.

Born in Coventry, Tim and his family moved to Goodge Street, central London. His father, Terry, was a press officer, initially for the Labour party and then in the commercial sector, and his mother, Gilly (nee Duxon) was a lecturer in political science at the Polytechnic of Central London (now Westminster University). Tim was a staunch Labour supporter all his life.

He went to Pimlico school, then Kingsway college for his A-levels. In 1982 he and five friends founded the Grey Organisation, an anarchic art collective.

He took a degree in photography, film and television at the London College of Printing and became involved in the London Film-Makers’ Co-op. There he met Derek Jarman, who gave Tim a walk-on part in his film Caravaggio (1986).

In the late 1980s Tim worked as a director on the youth TV programmes The Word and The Tube programmes, while staging art interventions with the Grey Organisation, such as walking into Cork Street galleries inside an enormous cardboard box; one night they painted the galleries in the street grey.

During this time he lived in a tenement block next to King’s Cross station, but had to leave due to the area’s redevelopment, and in the early 90s he moved to North Kensington. He wrote for various publications, including the Face, City Limits and the London Evening Standard, for whom he had a witty eating out “under a tenner” column.

Tim was a community activist who campaigned for the beleaguered North Kensington community, made adamantine efforts to save Portobello Road market from the franchise companies and crusaded for the locals to reclaim their community space beneath the Westway.

In 2009, he set up the Portobello Pop Up cinema beneath the Westway, which showed esoteric films and provided a platform for local and marginalised voices. It was forced to close in 2016 due to a lack of funding.

He is survived by his mother, his brother, Tom, and two nieces.

Celia Lyttelton

The GuardianTramp

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