Friday, 3 January 2014

Celia Otter's New Year Death

Authentic Anarchist Activist from the 1960s Sadly Succumbs to Deadly Disease
CELIA Otter born 14th, October 1935 - Died 1st, January 2014: 
CELIA Otter, libertarian, peace activist and long-term supporter of the Northern Anarchist Network (NAN), died on New Year's Day after a long period fighting off the consequences of a brain tumour that developed some years ago.  She had been linked to the anarchist and peace movement since the 1960s, when she was active in the campaign against nuclear weapons at Holy Lock and later in the Committee of 100.  She lived for many years in Wellington, Shropshire where her father died several years ago.  Her home, a former farm house, to me resembled something which the National Trust might welcome as a treasure, and with its small orchard of fruit trees husbanded by Celia it was always a pleasure for me to spend some time stopping over-night with the Otter family. 
Celia came out of that confident tradition of left-wing activists of the 1960s, who were not afraid to identify themselves as activists in the libertarian political sphere.  It was in Freedom (the then weekly anarchist newspaper) that Colin Ward wrote:
'For anarchists the problem of the 1960s is simply that of how to put anarchism back into the intellectual bloodstream, into the field of ideas which are taken seriously.' 
In the 1960s David Goodway reports (see his Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow) sales of Freedom varied between 2,000 and 3,000;  today's print order for Freedom has recently been given as 300 which shows how political anarchism has declined in its influence in this country. 
Thus Celia Otter's political origins dated from a time in the 1960s when anarchism, according to intellectuals like Colin Ward, appeared to be entering the life-blood of the social/political consciousness both on a political and intellectual level, and this was because anarchism and anarchists felt themselves to be part of a social movement:  the peace movement.  Celia had been arrested at Holy Lock during actions there and was also arrested during the protests and sit-downs of the Committee of 100.  By the 1970s though this peace movement had lost almost all of its impetus, and the English anarchists and libertarians adapted badly to the rise of industrial conflict of the decade leading up to the defeat of the miners in their strike of 1984/5.  At the same time the open honest civil disobedience of the peace activists and the peace movement, was being subverted by some anarchists, and a culture of anarchism that owed more to Machiavelli than Marx with groups, and individuals steeped in the school of political intrigue: thus we got the politics of the Angry Brigade, and culturally the Punks replaced the Hippies.
At the time that this was happening, Celia herself was working as head teacher at a school for maladjusted children.  But she did not just confine herself to house-keeping and her career; in later years she attended the Northern Anarchist Network meetings in Wellington, besides providing food and accommodation for those in attendance.  Over the years since 2003, when it founded, she was a consistent supporter of Northern Voices.  It is also reported that Celia took part in the founding of the animal liberation movement in this country.
Celia Otter was one of those English libertarians who were proud of their politics, straight-forward in their demeanour, and valiant in their conduct.   She is survived by her husband Laurens, one of the best known and most loved figures of English anarchism, and her daughter Fiona.


Graham said...

This is very sad news to hear. I feel very fortunate to have known Celia. She was an amazing individual. To have taken part in campaigns with her was an honor.
I offer my condolences to Laurens and her family and friends.

Rest In Peace,



Anonymous said...

Thank you both for your comments.
However I feel I must make it absolutely clear that my mother Celia was not in pain from her illness.It did limit her,but she had great inner and outer strength,as well as courage and humour.She continued to live as normal and independent a life as possible until a few months before her death.She died in her sleep.
Thanks again for the nice comments,she is greatly missed.

Editor said...

We agree absolutely, having taken account of what you and others have said, and we have amended the post accordingly. We apologise for our misunderstanding of the full facts and circumstances of Celia's condition and any confusion or pain our original remarks may have caused to you, your father or friends.

Our kindest regards & love to you all in Wellington,
Brian Bamford & Patricia Culpan

barry said...

I would like to offer my condolences to Laurens and his family for the sad loss of Celia. I only met her on a few occasions but she was such a warm, friendly, and lovely person and will be greatly missed by all her friends in the anarchist/llibertarian movement.

Derek said...

So sorry to hear of your recent loss Laurens. Best wishes and sincerest condolences to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Celia's funeral service will be held at Westhope Green Burial site at 12.00 on Thursday 16th January.
There will be a collection plate for International Animal Rescue.
Afterwards refreshments will be provided at Westhope college which is close by.

Tim Dawes said...

I have only just heard this sad news. I spent many happy hours in Laurens and Celia's company, both at College Farm House, in activism (particularly anti-racism) and at one time as active members of Wrekin Ramblers. Celia and Laurens were mentors in my early years, helping me to understand and adapt libertarian principles. Celia was a strong women and very caring. Someone I respected greatly. Condolences and best wishes to Laurens and Fiona. Tim Dawes