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Music charity founder remembered for ‘a heart of gold’

Liverpudlian formed band with aim of using music to help those with mental health crises

11 January, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

David Oliver, ‘his Liverpool humour and endless one-liners made him the centre of many jovial conversations’

HE was known for his “wicked sense of humour” and his dedication to help those with mental health issues.

John David Oliver, known to those close to him as David, has died aged 77. Mr Oliver founded Islington charity Islington Music Forum, which has helped hundreds of people suffering mental health crises through the power of music.

He founded the band Déjà Vu with that aim. They played gigs across the borough, including at Sotheby Mews Day Centre in Highbury East.

Rick Ferry, David’s friend and fellow band member, said: “David suffered from depression, but through music he learnt to thrive with other people.

“He had a spark. He organised the band and all the finances. When we would perform he would sing, but he would always tell a few jokes too. He had what I would call a wicked sense of humour.”

Born in North Wales, David grew up in Liverpool and studied at Sheffield University, where he gained the qualifications to become a maths teacher.

He moved to Islington in the late 1980s and worked as a civil servant, living in Camden Road, Newington Green and Mackenzie Road, where he lived for two years before his death in November last year.

David started Islington Music Forum, now known as Key Changes – an organisation which marries music with mental health recovery. Rick and David held music sessions for patients at Highgate Mental Health Centre in the early 2000s.

“We met all kinds of people who were skilled and talented,” said Rick. “We had a fantastic reaction from patients.”

David first joined in activities at Sotheby Mews Day Centre a decade ago, and led a session on Fridays with Rick where they turned poems into songs.

In September, the centre held a festival for its users where Déjà Vu performed.

Rosie Litterick, who helped organise the Sotheby Mews festival, said: “David was a huge personality in this community.

“His dedication to his work with Déjà Vu was second to none. Right until the last he was planning for the future and thinking who we could reach, how and where. His Liverpool humour and endless one-liners made him the centre of many jovial conversations.

“The day I met him, he orchestrated a song on my behalf. It was about the warmest welcome I have got anywhere in my life.

“He had a heart of solid gold and will be sorely missed by myself and everyone who knew him. Rest in peace, David.”

Nigel Williams, older people’s service manager at Sotheby Mews, said: “David as we knew him was a cheeky Scouser with a friendly smile and a distinct sense of humour.

“His connection with the centre precedes me. He was part of the furniture when I arrived.

“He was passionate about the power of music and its restorative ability. He often challenged cuts and closure of provision. He had a lovely way with people that often managed, through charm and persistence, to find funding for projects he championed.

“We will miss his drive, enthusiasm and challenge.”

David attended Islington Mind events and the day centre in Archway.

John Coppock, finance worker at Islington Mind in Archway, said: “We were saddened to hear of David’s death. He will be missed.”

David died at the Royal Free Hospital, in Hampstead, on November 30 after suffering from heart complications.


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