Yesterday I learnt of the death of a friend of some 40 years after a long illness (thanks Paolo Bazzoni for passing on the news). He was not on Facebook but I am sure was known to many of my UK friends … For those of you who knew Malcolm Watson I am sorry if this comes as a shock … but I felt I had to say a few words to mark his passing – especially as at 3am I woke up from a dream where he appeared.
Malcolm, don’t you dare do that again my dear, even though we might have shared a stage as the three ‘witches; in the Brixton Faries production of Minehead Revisited – the retelling of the Jeremy Thorpe Trials! For me, Malcolm (though we had not met for a few years) leaves/left a deep and lasting impression in my heart and psyche; a true and tried friend from my early twenties until now, who was part of my gay ‘family’. So please do allow me to eulogise, as stuck in Amsterdam and in these days of isolation and distancing, this maybe the only chance I get.
I first meet Malcolm when as a student at Warwick University in the 1970s. He helped set up the ‘Gaysoc’ and visited Brixton Faerie Land – the Gay Centre and the squats on Railton and Mayall Roads. After Uni he moved in to become a fully-fledged Brixton Faerie in the mid ’70s -carving out a cosy den in one the basements of the Railton Road ‘faerie’ squats. His little room was an oasis of tranquility and good conversation for the community (including myself living a few doors down) with an always open door; a place of much tea and seemingly continuous joints), where conversations ranged from the intellectual to the frivolous; the sublime to the ridiculous – all presided over by Malcolm the charming ‘madam’ of the saloon. He lived there until moving on to one of the first apartments that grew out of those squats when the Brixton Housing Co-op was set up (of which he was a stalwart member – on the committees , as treasurer and much more beside) for nearly 40 years.
What was remarkable about Malcolm (for me) was his quiet and steadfast conviction that ‘of course the world was fucked’, that the patriarchy was a joke, that people needed to ‘discover’ themselves before preaching to others! An old fashioned ‘hippy’ some might say – but ‘tune in turn on drop out’ was only part of his mantra – he went out of his way in offering his time, energy, personal space, calm friendship and insight to many a person and cause. I, and I am sure many others valued his sage advice counsel, and just his general ‘niceness’ Not that he did not have a sharp tongue when he felt it was required or warranted . When somebody or something was ‘called out’ by Malcolm there was no ambiguity – you knew it! However rarely a prima-donna unlike many of us Brixton Faeries; I find it remarkable I can only find one ‘grainy’ photo of him, though he was there for all the dances, the demos, the meetings. Readers please post any you might have.
Dear and sweet ‘vertiginous monarch’ , of the calm words, good conversation and companionship, acerbic but never ‘mean’ wit, bright brain, musical fingers, and constantly hennaed hair for much of your life; thanks for being a friend and part of my gay family. I mourn your passing. Others, I am sure have other recollections – please feel free to share them.
Julian Hows (Edited 8th May 2020. Thanks Paolo Bazzoni)