Archive 2013: Pat Knowles (Northfield and later Selly Oak meeting)

Pat died in 2013 aged 90. Her working years were spent in the social work and teaching sectors, in Britain, Madagascar and Germany and she had many voluntary commitments.

servas logoShe was a founder member and, for some time, European Coordinator of the international organisation SERVAS, writing a book ‘Servas – an experiment in Peace Building’. She opposed the pressure exerted on the organisation by Senator Joseph McCarthy who firmly encouraged SERVAS to focus on travel and friendship and lose the peacebuilding emphasis.

As an effective media officer for Birmingham Green Party for some years, Pat wrote letters to newspapers and spoke on local radio – taking broadcaster Ed Doolan to task more than once!

An extract from a post Pat wrote for The Stirrer displays her concern for the environment: “There is now little question that human activity is a major factor in causing climate change, but in spite of the report of the International Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] there are still writers who object to its conclusions and question its motivation”.

laurie baker building

She inspired Terry Grimley to write a Birmingham Post feature about the valued work of Laurie Baker, a fellow member of Northfield Quaker meeting. After serving in the Friends Ambulance Unit during the war Laurie settled in India and pioneered sustainable architecture using local clay (above) – designing high profile buildings and also low cost housing.

Pat was a farmer’s daughter and advocated producing high-quality food grown and distributed locally. The increasingly frequent decisions of councils to sell their county farms were vigorously opposed by her and for several years she produced ‘Growing Concerns’, the Green Party agricultural newsletter.

Though her letter to the Guardian was written in 1999, it is directly relevant to current concerns about the food supply chain.

She said: “We should move away from the concept of farming as a competitive industry to that of a service to the community, producing high-quality food grown and distributed locally, instead of a complicated system of imports from all over the world, brought here with great demands on transport and creating pollution, especially from air delivery”.

peace garden Pat was a confirmed pacifist.

As long as her health would permit, she attended and spoke at the day of remembrance for conscientious objectors, held annually in the Bath Row Peace Garden (right).

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