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Paul Patrick 1950 - 2008

If there was ever a man determined not to leave the world as he found it, it was Paul Patrick, who has tragically died, aged 57, from a serious lung condition. Paul was passionate, voluble, big-hearted, an inspired and inspiring teacher and speaker, theatre practitioner and one of the country’s leading activists on lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans issues.

From the many personal tributes to Paul Patrick it is clear that those who worked with him found that their lives were immeasurably changed for the better. Above all, he was a human rights campaigner, prepared to challenge all forms of oppression wherever he found them but especially in schools. As a staunch trade unionist, his influence on his own union, the NUT, helped bring about a sea change in their attitudes and put them at the forefront of equality for LGBT teachers.

Paul came out in 1969, three years before he entered the teaching profession only two years after

the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. In 1974, as an openly gay teacher, he helped found the London Gay Teachers Group which, over the years, turned into the campaigning organisation, Schools OUT; of which he was co chair with long-time friend and colleague Sue Sanders.

Such determination to change the working and personal conditions for the LGBT community-at-large became the hallmark of Paul Patrick’s life. In 2004, he and Sue co-founded LGBT History Month. He travelled extensively to promote events, and appeared on a variety of radio programmes, including the Today programme.

Paul’s voice projection and his fascinating combination of Geordie and Lancastrian accents (he had no time for the middle class convention of Received Pronunciation), coupled with his thought provoking, humorous and challenging content, made him a compelling and memorable speaker.

The roll call of positions he held in the voluntary sector throughout his life are testament to his indefatigable energy and clarity of purpose - the heartfelt tributes on the memorial website since the announcement of his death no less a witness to the deep love, respect and admiration in which he was held by people across the spectrum - from LGBT community workers to parents, teachers, students and artists - and of course from his family. He is survived by his mother sister and brother.

Paul Patrick was born on July 23rd, 1950 in South Shields. He was educated at South Shields Grammar School and later at Burnley Grammar School. He moved to London where he studied English and drama, the two subjects that – equal rights apart – were to become the passion of his life.

In 1972, he became a teacher at the Roger Manwood School in Lewisham, quickly becoming Head of Drama, then a member of the teacher’s advisory panel for Greenwich Young People’s Theatre in Education, working with teachers and advisors. He was the first openly gay teacher in the UK. He soon came to the attention of the ILEA (Inner London Education Authority), who later co-opted him to serve as an equal opportunities advisor.

His work at the Roger Manwood School set the pattern for what was to become his trademark: after-school drama projects and pastoral care. Under his direction, Roger Manwood school plays became legendary. When the school was amalgamated and became Crofton School, Paul Patrick was involved at every level in reconstituting its staffing and structures. He later became its Equal Opportunities Officer, responsible, as later with the ILEA, for wide ranging advice covering personal and health issues, social education, sexuality as well as drama and the arts. It’s true to say that Paul Patrick was before his time in spreading `good practice’ through London schools.

In 1997 he moved north, to Lancashire, to live closer to his family. Teaching stints at Accrington and Rossendale College and Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School enabled him to further develop his work with school plays. He was particularly proud of a piece on homophobic bullying that toured local schools and teachers’ conferences. Its strength, he said, came from the way the young people he worked with `owned’ the piece.

As well as the usual school fare of Shakespeare and Treasure Island, Paul Patrick expanded the repertoire to include more ambitious pieces such as Cabaret, and Goldoni’s A Servant of Two Masters. In the last 2 years he directed adapted and staged Much Ado about Nothing with the Rossendale Players and the British amateur premiere of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues in Waterfoot  to great acclaim.

He wrote and lectured prolifically on drama, health, multiculturalism and sexual orientation. He was co-author of `Model equal opportunities and anti-bullying policies’, a paper endorsed by all the major teaching unions; and `Section 28: A Guide for Teachers, Parents and Governors’ (1988)’. Among the many videos with which he was connected was `A Different Story – the lives and experiences of a group of young lesbians and gay men’ (ILEA 1986) and `A Question of AIDS’ (ILEA 1987) and a training video for social workers on child abuse, again for ILEA (1988).

In the 1990s he became a foster parent to one of his pupils, an event rare enough to find himself recounting the experience on John Peel’s Home Truths. Amongst the many organisations on which he served as a member are ROSE (Research on Sex Education, 1964-87); Unesco Child Development Project (1985-6); and the NUT’s LGBT Working Party (2002-2008). He was NUT Equal Opportunities Officer, Lancashire Division for three years (2002-5) and President of Rossendale NUT, 2005-6.

As one of the many postings on the LGBT memorial site put it: `I can't think of anyone I've ever met who was more ALIVE than Paul - he galvanised us all into action, reaction, response and resistance.’ He is going to be sorely missed.

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