In 1981, on the identical night time as riots have been breaking out in Brixton, the neighborhood chief Leonard Johnson, confronted with a crowd of offended younger individuals on one aspect and armed police on the opposite, stopped the identical occurring in Harlesden, north-west London. “Let’s construct, not destroy,” he argued and for the following 40 years, that was his guiding philosophy.
My good friend Leonard, who has died aged 67 of most cancers, was a founding member and chair of the Harlesden Individuals’s Group Council and was the driving pressure within the setting-up of Bridge Park, then the most important black neighborhood challenge in Europe.
Leonard, along with Juliet Simpson, Lawrence Fearon and different residents of the Stonebridge property in Harlesden, based the HPCC in 1980. At first they ran play schemes, leisure actions and lessons in a neighborhood youth membership, however Leonard had his sights on greater concepts. Down the street from the youth membership, the disused Stonebridge bus storage was on the market. Leonard noticed the potential of the three.5-acre web site to supply a sports activities corridor, cafe, workshops, IT amenities and childcare – all to be run by native individuals. I used to be requested by Brent council (my then employer) to work with Leonard and the HPCC to assist them develop their plans.
In January 1982, Leonard introduced his concepts to the council and invited authorities ministers and GLC councillors to go to the positioning. By the top of March, he and the HPCC had persuaded Brent, with help from authorities and the GLC, to purchase it.
After in depth constructing works, Bridge Park was formally opened by the then Prince Charles in December 1988. The prince was so impressed that he invited Leonard and two others, together with myself, to St James’s Palace. The then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, additionally invited Leonard to No 10.
Born in Harlesden, north London, Leonard was the son of Edith (nee Grant) and Leemar Johnson, who had emigrated from Jamaica as a part of the Windrush era. His teenage years have been troubled, and after Willesden highschool he spent a few years in borstal and jail, however on popping out in 1980 with a robust Christian religion, Leonard was in a position to flip his life – and 1000’s of others’ – round.
After the bus depot was purchased, Brent council employed him as a youth and neighborhood chief, however his success with Bridge Park quickly led to consultancy work with numerous companies, together with the Civil Service Faculty, and overseas, from South Africa to the US.
Sadly, relations between Brent council and the HPCC deteriorated, and in 1996 the council took over the administration of Bridge Park, deciding in 2017 to promote it to builders. Leonard led the Save Bridge Park marketing campaign, and was the main defendant in a 2020 excessive courtroom case. Whereas the ruling finally determined in Brent’s favour, the choose recognised the important function that Leonard and the HPCC had performed in its improvement and urged the events to work collectively.
A pure chief, with a transparent imaginative and prescient and unwavering willpower, Leonard continued to volunteer at Bridge Park all through, and remained chair of the HPCC till his loss of life. It was a privilege to have identified and labored with him.
He’s survived by his spouse, Religion (nee Watson), whom he married in 1982, their two kids, Syreeta and Leonard Junior, a grandson, Joshua, three sisters and two brothers. Two different brothers predeceased him.