John Sanders

John, who died on the 30th June, was a founder members of our Society and maintained a keen interest in all aspects of our work. He was always a valued member. As principal of the Lichfield School of Art, John encouraged many people to "have a go" at painting, pottery and other arts and crafts. He always encouraged everyone to look critically at works of art and, in a wider context, to be aware of beauty and ugliness in our environment - in buildings, street scenes and planning. These interests made him one of the most popular speakers at our meetings for many years.

John was a truly original thinker with the ability to instigate new projects and to enthuse others so that his ideas were carried through successfully. The two large pageants depicting scenes from Lichfield's history were proof of this. Colourful processions with coaches, carriages, knights, dancers and flower sellers; jousting in Stowe Fields and battle scenes in Beacon park; all originated from John and were carried out by hundreds of helpers.

The desire to publicise the works of Erasmus Darwin and to gain recognition for this Lichfield connection led to two other significant projects. One was the restoration of Darwin House in Beacon Street and its establishment as a museum. The second, the Darwin Walk, was closely linked to the Lichfield Civic Society. John approached the committee with the idea of a 'green necklace' encircling the City. It was supported whole-heartedly and its popularity continues to grow.

In connection with the Johnson bi-centenary [in 1984], John was responsible for putting on a great exhibition of the works of Joseph Wright of Derby in the art gallery over the old Library in Beacon Street. When this gallery was closed by the County Council, in 1991, John led the action in trying to keep it in use. In recent years John has again led the fight for its rehabilitation, supported by our own Society and by the Society of Artists (of which he was President), with the campaign continuing until very recently. Sadly this battle has not been won and the splendid gallery lies empty and unused.

Like his hero, Erasmus Darwin, John was something of a polymath. He will be remembered for his many interests; his love of painting, woodcutting, photography, education and much more. Our sympathy goes to Masie, his wife, and to his family. His death is a great loss to them, to our Society and to the City of Lichfield.

M[ary] L[ister]
July 2003