Cllr Alan Gloak MBE- a life well lived

“They don’t make them like that anymore” – and this time, I really believe it to be true.  The certainly would never be two Alan Gloak’s, and given his witness and contribution to the gay rights, the struggle for liberation and equality and inclusion for all LGBT+ communities we really won’t see his like again.  Born in 1942, Alan died on 29th December aged 81, an active party member and former councillor in the Wells Local Party in Somerset.

Alan’s life is a rich tapestry indeed, but his political contribution for the Liberal Democrats was in Somerset, or more specifically Glastonbury.   Alan was elected in 1995 to Glastonbury Town Council and to Mendip District Council.  He lost his seat on Mendip in 1999, but continued as a Town Councillor, but in 2001 he gained the seat of Glastonbury on Somerset County Council, held it in 2005, 2009 standing down in 2017 after 16 years. 2001 was a good year for Somerset Liberal Democrats and we took majority control, defended in 2005 and 2009.

In 2002 he was the portfolio holder for Community Regeneration and Economic Development, but in 2005 he became Chairman of the Council. And it was in this role that Alan was to thrive. As the ceremonial face of the Council Alan was to throw himself into the role with energy, passion and aplomb. As Alan toured round the County at shows, events, breakfasts, seminars and at the many offices where staff were based he listened and learnt.

Empowered with knowledge and insights into the front line of the Council, Alan became a personal champion for looked after children, for the social groups who might get left behind, and for the community aspect of politics.

As Chairman of Somerset County Council Alan Gloak became a living embodiment of the implementation of community politics  He had taken the philosophy of community politics and ALDC, practised it in his town and division and had been duly elected by the community he loved.  But in office, he continued to advocate community solutions, supported by the Council, but led by and for residents. Looking back at his role, his work, and his reputation, it is as a champion for community politics and for Glastonbury that he should be remembered.

Yesterday I had the huge privilege to lead Alan’s funeral service and there we gathered with his friends and family and recalled our friend. The political CV that I outline above would be enough to generate much pride, but alongside also stands his wider contributions.. Possibly his most significant act for the wider Party was ringing the losing liberal Democrat candidate in the Ipswich byelection. In that call he persuaded the candidate to leave Suffolk and to take up the mantle as parliamentary candidate for Wells Liberal Democrats. That phone call to Tessa Munt was a game changer and created the events that led to the election of Tessa as MP for Wells in 2001.

In addition to his party politics Alan was a significant figure in the story of gay liberation. During the 1970’s and 80’s Alan and his circle of friends were at the sharp end of the law as publishers of gay literature and pornogaphy.  Alan’s involvement was with gay publishing industry that was constantly pushing the barriers and limits of indecency laws and the interpretation and implementation of the law by the then institutionally homophobic police.  Arrests, raids, stocks of their magazine being impounded and confiscated – the literal street battle between gay rights campaigns and those pushing for publishing freedom whilst the Police and the State pushed back with considerable force was a battle indeed and Alan Gloak and his life partner Colin Wells found themselves caught up in the heart of this.

Alan and Colin, through this shared experience, were both lifelong supporters for LGBT+ equality, and were the first couple in the UK to have a civil partnership.  Much is made of the couples from London and indeed David Furnish and Elton John undertaking the first civil partnerships in 2005.  Alan had the clocks at Taunton Registry Office turned backwards by 5 minutes so that in fact he and Colin were the first civilly partnered couple in the UK! A little known fact for Liberal Democrats to be proud of.

My full eulogy to Alan was helpfully recorded by Mendip Crematorium and can be viewed on my personal facebook page. At the end of the service I used a short poem of tribute, it is reproduced at the end of this article.

Cllr Alan Gloak MBE, known and appreciated for his work and campaigning in Somerset and a Liberal Democrat whose name should be better known across the whole party, A pioneer, an advocate for community politics, someone who lived and worked through the Police repressions of LGBT+  communities before the laws were dropped. changed and rewritten. A record of action, and as Glastonbury appreciated, a promise of more, and he delivered on those promises..

 

Poetic tribute: Alan Gloak MBE(1942-2023) – A life well lived

We laughed and pressed ahead, we discussed and often disagreed,

We conceded your opinion, and we supported you.

You changed lives, changed, and raised expectations,

You raised standards in public life, enabled the voiceless to be heard,

And we did this with you, often running to catch up with you.

You lived life to the full, with great energy and a huge heart,

You sought power and influence to use it to the benefit of others,

You loved the communities in which you lived, and they loved you.

We now have the chance to reflect today on your contribution.

We can list and celebrate the organisations, the charities, the causes

– we can note and recall each of the elections won and lost,

But it all comes back to your desire to improve the world around you.

Everyone has a role to play, each of us can be kinder, gentler,

No-one in our own dealings need be snubbed, mocked, or ignored.

Taking part, turning up, being involved, and yes standing for election.

These are worthwhile, can be done with grace, with warmth and with determination

– that it should be fun, and that friendships be formed.

By Ed Fordham, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

 

* Ed Fordham is a councillor on Chesterfield Borough Council and runs Brockwell Books of Chesterfield, selling many thanks, not least ephemera he bought from Liber Books over the last 25 years.

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One Comment

  • I’m never sure whether to describe such news as incredibly sad after such a life. But Alan was an incredibly lovely man and I was his agent when he first got elected in those 1995 elections. And I particularly enjoyed congratulating him in 2001 when he beat a particularly loathsome Tory!

    Gardens are very much not my thing but I don’t think this should pass without a mention of his amazing garden that was admired by so many.

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