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The protester once jailed for his beliefs now enjoying life in Norfolk village

PUBLISHED: 09:30 13 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:52 13 July 2020

Richard Headicar. Picture: Peter Steward

Richard Headicar. Picture: Peter Steward

Archant

Hethersett resident Richard Headicar is a man of many parts.

Richard Headicar compering at a fete at Woodcote Sheltered Housing Complex. Picture: Peter StewardRichard Headicar compering at a fete at Woodcote Sheltered Housing Complex. Picture: Peter Steward

A humanist, a polemist, an activist, a champion of the oppressed, a lover of nature and literature, an environmentalist, a hippy dissident, and a supporter of the elderly and vulnerable are just some of the labels pinned on Mr Headicar during a long life which has seen him go from being a Christian to what he describes as an humanitarian atheist and from a young Conservative to a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Mr Headicar was born in Chelsea in August 1933 and grew up in pre-Second World War London, lived through the Blitz, was involved in activism during the ‘Swinging Sixties’ and the subsequent unrest of the Thatcher years.

On leaving school he had a number of jobs which included working in a bakery, in a factory making speedometers and in stationery before being called up for National Service.

He became intrigued by politics and the art of debating and became an active member of the Methodist Church before becoming disillusioned with religion and more interested in science.

Richard Headicar on the soap box in Speakers' Corner, London. Picture: Richard HeadicarRichard Headicar on the soap box in Speakers' Corner, London. Picture: Richard Headicar

“I became an atheist but I never lost an intense respect for the environment, human beings, love and all the things that make us human,” he said.

Mr Headicar’s love of debating saw him regularly mount his soapbox in Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park and also get to know famous philosophers such as Bertrand Russell.

“It all started off as a joke. My first appearance in the park saw me wearing a fez and speaking as the leader of the People’s Retrogressive Party – our mantra was ‘recreating the past by travelling backwards to the future’.”

But what started as a joke soon became a major part of Richard’s political life as he became passionate about “Banning the Bomb.” He became a committed member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and found himself in Speaker’s Corner and many other high profile places of debate, sharing a platform with the likes of actress Vanessa Redgrave.

Richard Headicar (centre) at the launch of Hethersett Dementia Support Group, with founding members David Bills and Stephen Baxter. Picture: Peter StewardRichard Headicar (centre) at the launch of Hethersett Dementia Support Group, with founding members David Bills and Stephen Baxter. Picture: Peter Steward

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It was at this point that Richard met the man who was influence him over many decades – Hungarian poet and philosopher Reinhold Alfred who moved to London and changed his name to Albert Reynolds.

Under the influence of Reynolds, Mr Headicar joined the Socialist Party of Great Britain which believed in using the ballot box for revolutionary purposes.

“I wasn’t looking for world revolution but I had a belief that every single human being has the ability to change attitudes. I never belittled my opponents and learnt to respect people.”

He has subsequently written a biography of Albert Reynolds which is awaiting publication.

But Mr Headicar’s views got him into hot water and he was arrested for demonstrating outside the Russian Embassy. He was sentenced to three months in prison and served two.

“I wouldn’t call myself a subversive. I have strong opinions and will always argue them and they are often contrary to mainstream thought. I am always happy to open dialogue with anyone and I would never let politics or religion get in the way of friendship.”

Mr Headicar even stood for parliament in an unsuccessful attempt to oust Labour’s Frank Dobson.

Outside politics, he worked hard and ran a toy shop in London and an art shop in Lewisham. Contracting cancer was the catalyst for a move to the cleaner air of Norfolk and he believes our rural county helped him beat the disease.

He met his wife-to-be Sue at Aldermaston. Today they live separately in Hethersett but are still married – their daughter Tamsin lives in Wymondham and son Tim in Cambridge.

Mr Headicar lives in the Woodcote Sheltered Housing Complex in Hethersett where he is as active as ever – being a huge exponent of social housing and supporting his fellow residents.

He is also involved with numerous village groups in subjects as diverse as dementia support, pensioners’ rights, bereavement and bowls.


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