Brian Pordage, resolute voice for Camden’s council tenants
'Brian was always very dapper, wonderfully turned out - he had a wicked sense of humour'
20 January, 2020 — By Helen Chapman
AT his wake, a half-pint of Guinness and a glass of brandy sat on the table by the door of the Garden Gate pub in South End Green – a touching way to remember one of the most resolute voice in Camden’s tenant movement.
Brian Pordage, who died on New Year’s Eve aged 73, had opposed the loss of council homes through Right to Buy and the back-door privatisation through stock transfer to arms-length management organisations.
The former chairman of the Kentish Town district management committee (DMC), and at one time the head of the Camden Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations, he had lived on the Lissenden Gardens estate since 1969.
Among many campaigns he was involved in, Mr Pordage called for new council housing in the King’s Cross railways development, which critics have argued has more room for office blocks for big companies than answering the need for affordable places to live. He would travel up and down the country calling for more investment in social housing.
Mr Pordage worked for the St John Ambulance service and later as a transport clerk for London Underground. The latter saw him work at every station on the Northern line, ensuring ticket machines were in working order.
He had grown up in Chelsea but in 1969 he moved to Camden after marrying wife Anne, who works as a teaching assistant at Rosary Primary School. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last June.
Mr Pordage ran the Old Oak pub cricket team and was a regular at the Garden Gate. Neighbours from Lissenden Gardens gathered at the wake on Tuesday to remember Mr Pordage as a “principled” campaigner who helped form the tenants and residents association that saved the estate from being sold off. In a famous case that has gone down in Camden folklore, the council bought the estate in 1973 when Frank Dobson was leader of the Town Hall.
Neighbour Kevin Marsh said Mr Pordage “was a walking history book”, adding: “If you pointed at something and said, ‘where were those original tiles from?’ He would know.”
Richard Pearce, who has lived in Lissenden Gardens for 45 years, said: “Brian was always very dapper, wonderfully turned out. He had a wicked sense of humour. I had to go to a reception for the King of Saudi Arabia. So how could I look smart enough? I borrowed a suit from Brian. Brian was the man.”
Camden’s housing chief, Labour councillor Meric Apak, said: “I first met Brian in 2003. “Brian was a well respected, stalwart figure for the residents he represented, immersed in housing policy, always defending council housing and the rights of council tenants.”
He added: “A funny moment came to pass when at the time DMCs were chaired by councillors. On this occasion a councillor who will remain nameless nodded off and fell off his chair. Brian swiftly and expertly broke the awkwardness of the moment by saying that was not a call for any other business.”
Mr Pordage’s daughter, Francesca, said her father was “empathetic about the right of everyone to be treated with honesty, integrity and fairness”.
She added: “He was perhaps difficult to work with because he had strong opinions, but he rubbed shoulders with people across the social and political spectrum and enjoyed debating ideas and helping to implement change where he could. We have lost an enquiring mind, a generous spirit, a fallible human being.”
Mr Pordage died at the Royal Free Hospital.
The funeral took place at St Dominic’s Priory. He leaves behind wife Anne, three children – Anna-Maria, Francesca and Georgia – and six grandchildren.