Biography of John Barber

I was born in London in 1947 and attended Holloway School, North London where I was Head Boy. I left with two GCE A Levels in English (A) and History (A) (gave up Art after a brave attempt in the Lower Sixth).

I began my professional career as a Media Buyer with a leading London Advertising Agency working on client campaigns such as Nescafe, Weetabix and the Government’s Don’t Drink and Drive Campaign.

I left advertising for National Westminster Bank where I spent most of the following 17 years in International Banking liaising with corporate customers.

My final assignment was to arrange a tour of the Far East by Manchester United FC. I was a member of the Westminster Theatre Club for ten years; first as stage hand, then Stage Manager and finally as producer.

In 1986 I decided to leave the corporate world and having married, moved to Buntingford where we managed an Off Licence in the High Street. On the birth of our daughter Anne-Marie we moved again in 1996 to live in Hertford and have lived on Folly Island ever since.

In 2001 I became Chairman of the Folly Island Residents Association and helped to oversee the first Residents Parking Zone in Hertford. I became a member the Hertford Town Centre Management Board, later the Hertford Town Partnership and was appointed Town Centre Manager.

I was the lead organiser for Hertford Fun Day from 2001 until 2005 and in the final year ran the Hertford Music Festival presenting Battle of the Bands as part of the Fun Day events.

The first successful project was Hertford Town Watch which at its height in 2006 had fifty members connected by radio to the town’s CCTV network controlled in Stevenage. Hertford Pubwatch followed along with the Taxi Marshalling Scheme and the introduction of the now monthly Farmers Market in 2003.

I was also responsible for the infrastructure of the town’s Christmas lights and the ‘switching-on’ ceremonies. I am particularly sad that the Continental Market remains a one-off despite the efforts of a few people to bring it back as a regular four day event in town.

Owing to Government cutbacks my role as Town Centre Manager was withdrawn in 2010 but secured funding to launch Hidden Hertford which ran for two years and presented events along with audio/visual tours of the town recorded on to iPods and MP3 players and river trips along the River Lea.

I also edited Ward Times, a non-political on-line newspaper reporting on news and information relevant to market towns for the East Herts district.

I have been writing professionally since 1996 for local and national magazines on social and local history. A non-fiction title was published in 2002 on the then unsolved Camden Town Murder of 1907.

This led to a series of presentations at Scotland Yard and the Ripper Society and a contribution to a documentary on Walter Sickert and John Whistler on BBC2.

I now publish crime novels on line through Smashwords and Amazon and other non fiction titles of anthologies and modern myths. I maintain an interest in Hertford and published regular blogs on events in the town.

This interview was published by the Hertfordshire Mercury on December 7 2007.

Name: John Barber

Age: Just collected my bus pass

Where are you fromFolly Island, Hertford

Job: Hertford Town Centre Manager

Hobbies: Writing

Favourite Film: Goodbye Mr Chips

Favourite Song: Bat out of Hell

Favourite Book: Three men in a boat

Claim to Fame:

Bob Monkhouse rang me from his holiday home in Barbados to offer me his memories of Leslie Welch, the Memory Man who was a famous variety act in the 1950/60’s. He talked for about half an hour and I always thought that a wonderful and kind gesture from such a celebrated stand-up comedian and TV host to a little known writer (and who remains so to this day!).

What famous person would you like to be stuck on a desert island with?

Becky Mantin the ITV weather girl. This kind of interview was a regular feature in the Mercury who asked various politicians and traders their likes and views. When asked who they would like to be stuck on a desert island with most replied with: William Shakespeare, the Pope, George Bernard Shaw, Henry the Eighth and various reality TV stars such as Bear Grylls.

I took the view that if I had to be marooned on a desert island then I would prefer my companion to be an attractive female. At the time of this interview I always knew that it was going to rain because Becky would do the whole of the weather forecast with a smile. So much better than discussing the end of the world with Wittgenstein.

When Zach my grandson passed away in 2015 I felt that there was little left in Hertford for me.

I had hoped that the Hertford Town Centre Urban Design Strategy would breathe some life into the town. All it produced was another list of everything that has been discussed, argued over and beaten into pulp by every possible combination of town centre committees and seminars. If I have copies of all these then someone else must have too at Council level and saved us all £100,000 to hire a team of consultants to regurgitate it.

As we near the end of 2015 the position regarding Waitrose in town is as unclear as when negotiations started in 2013.

The ex-Mayor Colin Harris once told me that I had been punching above my weight for far too long. Trying to form an opposition to the established pattern of things in this town has become more like punching my fist into thin air.

However I can look back over the past fifteen years and know that some good things were achieved; not always by myself but with the help of so many good friends and colleagues. In some chronological order.

Chairman of the Folly Island Residents Association

5 Fun Days

Hertford Music Festival

Continental Market

Hertford Town Watch

Hertford Pubwatch

Behave or be Banned

Farmers Markets

New Christmas Lights and much needed infrastructure

Christmas Fayres

Taxi Marshal Scheme

Hidden Hertford – AV Tours

Training Courses for traders

Attracting new businesses to town

Business database

Editor of Ward Times

I may have missed a few but it is exhausting just listing that lot and remembering the time and effort spent by myself and many other who assisted and gave support along the way.

Thank you for those 15 years.