Over the next few days there will be many things said about Paul Boskett MBE. He touched so many people’s lives it is inevitable that people will feel moved to share their memories of him. That so many people have been moved to do so already is
an indication of his impact, his influence and above all his generosity of spirit.
So much has been said about Paul’s influence on the lives of young people that scarcely anyone can be unaware of the qualities of a singular man who had not yet
reached his 60th birthday.
I had the privilege of Paul’s friendship for over 30 years; in fact I can remember the first time we met in 1979 in a small room in the old Congleton Education Offices. Paul was dressed very smartly, white
shirt, tie, well cut blue jacket…and he also happened to be sporting an Afro. The uniqueness of his perspective on the world was immediately apparent.
Whilst Paul is best known, professionally at least, for his outstanding contribution to advancing
the cause of young people’s representation his early youth work was equally noteworthy. He worked initially as a Youth Tutor, teaching modern languages by day and running a youth centre on a high school campus by night. But when he moved to Leighton
Park Neighbourhood Centre in Crewe he really demonstrated his natural talent for the work. Few people would have attempted to get the young people with whom he was working in the early 80’s involved with performance and music, Paul not only got them
participating he produced shows with the Leighton Park young people showing what they could do.
His ability to eschew all notion of superiority when dealing with young people, making himself vulnerable in fact, made him someone with whom young people
felt comfortable. He was an embodiment of the principles of Accompanying as described by Maxine Green and Chandu Christian in their 1998 book of that name. Paul was often ahead of his time.
Never one to turn away from injustice Paul was a committed
trade unionist who had been President of the Youth & Community Workers Union for many years. In recent years the union was absorbed into UNITE and Paul ensured that the interests of a small workforce were not swamped.
He was always doing six things
at once, he was a highly sought after DJ locally and he and I began playing music together around 1982. He made a record in 1983 on which I played. There was no knowing what he would do next. In 1985 he found his way into the Guinness Book of Records for covering
the most miles of railway track in a set number of hours. He did it for a local children’s health centre and of course, being Paul, dressed as a character from the Rocky Horror Show.
Music was always hugely important for Paul, when The Papa Bears
were created in 1999 Paul and Keith Brightmore were the first people I called. 14 years later the band was still going strong, on the Saturday before Paul’s passing we were, with Richard Tadman, David Francis and Sarah Francis, rehearsing material which
was totally different from anything we had previously done, and Paul’s enthusiasm was undiminished. For him a perfect Saturday was a bit of music with the group, and wins from Newcastle Utd, Crewe Alex and Berwick Rangers. This full house rarely occurred
but when it did…look out.
Paul and I actually joined a gym a few years ago, against the odds being offered we went several times. We would generally spend half an hour on the walking machine and then retire to the steam room convinced it was
doing us good.
So many memories of the man, and he did such great things. He was a powerful advocate for young people, his sense of justice underpinned by his strong Christian faith; he was a deacon in the Baptist church.
The Scouts were also
beneficiaries of Paul’s enthusiasm and commitment. He was a local leader, became District Commissioner and produced four editions of the Gang Show at Crewe Lyceum.
Just recounting his activities, and I’ve not covered everything, his German
connections for instance, is exhausting. How did he do it all? We could point out all his qualities…but ultimately he was just an enormously good man, the best I have ever known.