Tom Crabtree


At the end of the Nineties, I was invited by Watershed to develop some projects at Southmead Youth Centre in Bristol. I worked with the inspirational youth worker and self-acclaimed anarchist Jeremy Brent. At the time there was interest in working with young people and digital media and Watershed provided various Apple Mac computers for us to lug to Southmead. Things didn’t bode well and I was told I’d be lucky to visit the area and come away with all the wheels on my car. On my first visit to the youth centre I was mocked and torn to shreds by the boys at the centre who pointed at my Moroccan scarf and said “Look at him, the gay poofter!”

On returning home to Bridport I met Tom Crabtree socially at The Bull Hotel and he was keen to give me advice. “What you’ve got to do, Simon, is befriend the hardest kid.” He then described instances of working with difficult teenagers and how this understanding of the peer interactions among young people is imperative in directing positive outcomes. Tom’s advice was spectacularly successful and on my return to Southmead the following week I befriended the hardest kid – Ray – who demanded that I Photoshop his picture into the driver’s seat of an XR3i (Ford Escort). I did this and from then on Ray took it upon himself to look after me and direct the other boys to get involved.

Tom Crabtree was an extremely witty and insightful man, who had that typical Liverpudlian effortless comic ability to shed humour on human interactions. During the Eighties he wrote the ‘On The Couch’ column for Cosmopolitan Magazine and became a unique caring and authoratative voice to his readers.

He wrote: “Hate is a consuming passion, it takes up your whole being, uses up your energy, cuts off your potential for love, friendship and happiness.” Tom, spoke very much from his own experience and this proximity and observation gave him a sincerity and conviction that was to be admired.

Tom and his wife Mary became stalwarts of the Bridport art scene and up until Mary’s death were often to be entertaining in their small house in Folly Square. They both had a liking for champagne and engaging conversation, enjoying life to the full. Tom had a particularly mercurial connection to the ‘six o’clock’ rule – no alcohol before the sixth hour, when he would pop a cork and the party or conversation would commence. As well as a libertarian lifestyle, Tom and Mary had a wonderful creative extended family around them.

Tom wrote ‘The Search For Love a Guide to Your Relationships’ (Cosmopolitan, 1983) that can still be purchased online.