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Inspiring Individuals

The first of a series of articles on Barbican Residents who should be an inspiration to us all – written and researched by Stephanie Ross


oyce Nash is one of the most reassuring, capable people that I know. Regularly seen around the Barbican immaculately dressed in a lilac or light blue suit, with matching scarf (and hat on really special occasions) going to or from meetings, she looks so efficiently purposeful yet always has a moment to enquire after people she knows and offer sensible, practical advice on problems. She has lived in the Barbican for thirty four years and although retired from salaried work she has a busy volunteering schedule for organizations shaping local authority policy for the City. Since 1983 she has been one of the five Common Councilmen for the ward of Aldersgate (which covers the west half of the Barbican Estate), she also contributes to some twenty one committees (mostly City-based) such as Community and children’s service (which includes education); Police services; Epping Forest and Commons; City Bridge Trust; the Barbican Centre and represents the City on the London Councils Grants Committee and the Arts and Culture Committee. She was appointed an OBE in 2000 for her contribution to the Arts and the City of London. Brought up in Barnsley, South

Yorkshire, a shy only child of shop worker parents (her mother the more dominant half of a solid marriage), a very young Joyce Nash spent much of her time with her Gran, a Scot from farming parents who left her own family and started a new life in Yorkshire with her book salesman husband. Her ability to adapt to life in a new place far from family support was inspiring. She loved reading and instilled that same passion in Joyce who remembers sitting on her knee listening to Robert Burns’ poetry and Sir Walter scott’s Ivanhoe. As constant playmate and carer her Gran become a real friend, mentor and role model as she grew up.

Joyce always wanted to be a teacher. Her first job was at a Barnsley primary school known for it’s excellent academic results. But her second post was in a deprived school in a slum clearance area outside Sheffield. There she found some inspiringly bright, wily kids who would

do well where ever they travelled in life. At the age of twenty nine Joyce applied for a headship, just to “get her name known”. But she got the job and began the new role as not only the youngest Head in the area but the youngest staff member at the school. This age difference created tensions at work and gave valuable experience in the art of management, as did dealing with the wide social mix of the catchment area where less deprived parents were keen to participate in parent-teacher committees but such involvement was sometimes resented by less well-off and involved families. At this time Joyce’s mother suffered a brain tumor needing Joyce and her father to devote time to her care. These experiences taught her a lot about empathy with people who were suffering with difficulties. Her enormous voluntary civic contribution started when she became interested in education politics. As a new teacher she had to collect money for the Teachers Benevolent Fund each week. This progressed to her being the school representative for the National Union of teachers and developed to being the National Chairman of the Teachers Benevolent Fund and Teachers Housing Association. She became a West Riding local councillor when a solicitor representing a teacher’s widow through the Benevolent Fund asked if she would stand as an independent candidate. She won the seat. In 1977 she married Roy Nash, an eminent Fleet Street journalist (also the first education correspondent for a national newspaper) who worked for the Mail and was Media Advisor to the National Association of Head Teachers, among other education focused organizations, moving on to BBC Radio 4’s Today program. They moved to the Barbican and Joyce became very actively involved in City civic affairs, being elected to the City’s Common Council for Aldersgate Ward in 1983. The City is unique in being a non-party political council, which suits her independent political status (she has always refused any party financial backing). Other volunteering activities have included twelve years making tea

and sandwiches in the St Bartholomew’s hospital patient and staff canteen. Her experience in education has been invaluable for her various roles as a City schools governor (John Cass primary, City of London School for Girls’ and – her current position- City of London School for Boys). School governors’ responsibilities have grown hugely since her days as a Head. They now run budgets and are accountable for their decisions. What a different picture from the fund-raising role of thirty years ago when Joyce’s staff and governors would involve the whole community (complete with marching band) in raising money for the school each first Saturday in July. Teaching has changed enormously too: so much focus now on numerous and ever-changing directives plus anxiety about league tables and results so that the joy of teaching and cultivating each child’s strengths and potential can get lost.

Joyce’s character was truly tested one day in 1996 when, while on holiday in Madeira with her husband, she was woken in the early hours to find him sitting up unable to speak. She had to take charge of the situation, alerting hotel staff and getting emergency medical help. Roy sadly died. Joyce had to find the inner strength to cope with the awful loss, grief and foreign bureaucracy (including two post mortems) far from home and family. She never waivered in carrying on and unfailingly met her civic responsibilities even during this sudden and unexpected loss.

Joyce has drawn on some important qualities throughout her busy and emotionally demanding life. Be organized and well informed, have a pleasant and positive disposition, take responsibility, get on with the job, have confidence in yourself and empathy with others, stand by your decisions.

Joyce Nash


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