Richard Attenborough and Surur Hoda at Kingsley Hall in 1996
It is with great sadness that we heard the news of the passing of our Founder President Baron Richard Attenborough. He was an exceptional man and did so much to help illuminate the peaceful, tolerant and non-violent views of Gandhi throughout the world.
John Rowley, who is a Trustee of the Gandhi Foundation and who knew Richard, has written an interesting article looking back on his life and especially his involvement with the Gandhi Foundation. You can view the full article which includes little-seen photographs by clicking this link:
I was privileged to have worked with Richard early in 1985 as the lawyer helping to create the Gandhi Trust, now the Gandhi Foundation. Together with Diana Schumacher, Lord David Ennals, Surur Hoda, Cecil Evans and Rex Ambler, we comprised the first trustees under the leadership of Richard himself.
Much has been very warmly written and spoken of his remarkable professional, artistic and steadfast nature and approach to his work, all very true and, if anything, understated in the endeavour to do justice to his vast, diverse and all-important talents.
What I think we were fortunate to have shared back in the aftermath of his epic film “Gandhi” , was in witnessing his innate sense of what is right and what is wrong, what needs to be supported and what opposed. The experience of his parents welcoming into their home two young Jewish girls, Helga and Irene, refugees from Nazi persecution whom he came to regard very much as his sisters, was frequently mentioned as defining the values of his upbringing. He had an ability to understand and, as it were, get under the skin of others, and a genuine uncomplicated belief that good can prevail – rare qualities and gifts in much limited supply.
This ethos was well to the fore in the discussions and thinking that went into the establishment of the charity, its objects and the practical implications of its workings as well as the visionary concept of the exercise. Richard embraced the teachings, commitment and authority of the Mahatma not simply as a worthy subject for a film – a movie, in his words – but as important for everyone to learn, absorb and run their lives for the betterment of all. True and needed for the 1980s, even more true today.
His most fitting memorial is for those now in charge of the charity to press forward with its human and humane standards and activities, bridge-building across differences real and perceived, all in keeping with the warmth, charm and humour that was ever dear Richard.
Martin Polden OBE
Co-Founder of the Environmental Law Foundation and a Patron of the Gandhi Foundation
Sadly, I never had the honour of meeting Richard, so I cannot add any personal reminiscences.
But I was hugely impressed by Gandhi, the film, and also by Oh What a Lovely War. A beautiful spirit has certainly been switched off in one way, yet its influence remains fresh for generations to come. I hope the Gandhi Foundation may play a leading role in spreading his light across the world.
Peace Child International and a Patron of the Gandhi Foundation