Campaigner leaves legacy of kindness

Vi Gostling speaking at a public meeting

Vi Gostling speaking at a public meeting

First published in Your Views

Veteran community campaigner Vi Gostling, 97, from Leyton-stone, will be remembered for her relentless lifetime defence of arts and local authority provision and access to public libraries, school governorships over 45 years and the co-founding of the Friends of Wansbek with the Borough Leyton in 1946 that invited Second World War orphaned German children to visit and stay in their school holidays, with their compassionate hosts.


Vi had been a champion of council public library provision when first elected as a Leytonstone Labour councillor in 1935 and continued her love of books for all local people when she opened the Harrow Green Library in 1960.


She then campaigned vigorously, along with Sir Derek Jacobi,  the eminent Shakes-pearian actor, in 2011, when thousands of local parents and children protested in vain about the errant Labour council decision – based on cost and not on local family need – to close the Harrow Green library, against a barrage of public opinion.


In 1946, along with Elsie Pracey, a radical minded headteacher, in Walthamstow, Vi  was the co-founder, along with Rolf Maikel, a community leader in Wansbek, of the first bridge building post Second World War and committed to shared twinned exchange visits, for the sake of compassion to war torn children.


In 1996, I was fortunate to travel and share the deep set human commitment of both Vi and her opposite number Rolf, a former rail engineer, on our mutual exchange civic visit, to mark the 900th anniversary of the town’s foundation.


On this visit an historical Wansbeck scroll was read out to the assembled district of Wansbek people and local dignitaries, by mayor Bob Wheatley, standing in the centre of the crowded Wansbek Town Hall.


This act was also poignant, on the part of Cllr Wheatley, who had served in the Merchant and Royal Navy throughout the Second World War. 


Vi was a beacon of light in our diverse community, as she exemplified a life-long commitment to human understanding and was a true testament to youth and their welfare and educational development, even given that she remained unmarried, without children of her own.


Vi represented a warm heart tempered by her unrelenting and steely resolve, that enjoyed almost a century of longevity, when each day was dedicated to her fellow neighbours, both at home and abroad, that had started in the recession and endured the shared family crises in the mid to late 1930s and now leaves us all with her legacy of human compassion.

Patrick Smith,
Higham Hill Liberal Democrat.

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