This page will be devoted to communicating information on the passing of Lisa Pontecorvo, our friend and a tireless community activist in the Caledonian Ward, Islington and Camden.

Please bookmark this page for all upcoming information.

You may wish to join many others of Lisa’s friends and colleagues who have left a Tribute to Lisa in the Comments section at the bottom of this posting.

Memorial Event now scheduled for Friday 14, November

The date has now been confirmed for the memorial event in Edward Square to celebrate and commemorate the life of Lisa.  I apologise for the slight delay in finally settling this but we now have a date and time that seems to maximise involvement and attendance.

It will be held on Friday 14th November at around 2pm in Edwards Square. We shall have a large marquee erected, refreshments, music, art and performances arranged (so far) from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, local schools and from Lisa friends and neighbours.

Much of the organisational burden is being handled by staff in the Council’s Greenspace department and we are very grateful for their contribution. Further details will be circulated shortly and we shall be widely publicising the event throughout the neighbourhood and Borough.

Best wishes,


As soon as we have more information, we will pass it on. You might want to record your recollections of Lisa under the "Comments" section of this posting for all to read.

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73 Responses to In Memory of LISA PONTECORVO

  1. Jennifer Christie says:

    Ditto, to everything Paul has said. I can’t believe she’s gone. May her spirit live on both here, in Thornhill Square, and in Edward Square.

  2. lisa was such a wonderful person – i can’t believe she has gone. she lives on in the wonderful edward square. a lovely tribute by paul

  3. Catherine Packard says:

    I am saddened beyond words at the news of this tragic accident. I was going to see Lisa tomorrow morning at one of the many King’s Cross ventures she loved to get involved in. I can’t believe I will never engage in the fabulous, boisterous banter with the larger than life Lisa whom we have all come to know so well.

  4. Bridget Fox says:

    Lisa was unique and I can’t believe she’s gone.

    People who at first glance thought she was a daffy lady on a bike soon learned otherwise. Lisa’s sharp mind and total determination to pursue her causes, made her fearless in the face of any institution or assumption.

    People who knew her as a forthright campaigner may, if lucky, also have got to know her kind heart; I remember Lisa was very sweet to me when I was suffering a bereavement.

    Lisa was passionate about defending local treasures, and became one herself. She will be very much missed.

  5. Alexander Kirk Wilson (aka JAK to Lisa) says:

    Poor Lisa. She was a good and idiosyncratic friend to me and an interested, caring (and idiosyncratic) godmother to William. We will miss her deeply. Could anyone who learns of funeral arrangements please post them on this site?

  6. Ruth Kirk-Wilson says:

    We are very old friends from university. We have told her old colleagues and friedns for whom we have emails but we feel so helpless. We simply cannot take this in and it is dreadful as we can’t find out who to contact about details. Does anyone know? We spoke before she wnet to St Luc this summer and arranged to meet up now. Please can anyone help?Ruth KW

  7. Ruth Kirk-Wilson says:

    We are devastated by this awful news and feel so helpless. Can anyone help us find out who is making all the arrangments? We do so want to help. We have told her old college and as many friends as we can but these are scattered in so many countries that it is not easy. Please can anyone help?
    Ruth Kirk-Wilson

  8. Ruth Kirk-Wilson says:

    We are simply devastated by the news. She has been part of our family life for so many years when she was in the UK. Please does anyone know who is organising all the practical details? We are so worried. She was an only child and most of her family are abroad.

  9. We are devasted by this event. Lisa was one of my oldest friends and part of my life since university. The worst thing for us is that we cannot find out who is handling all the practical details that she was so good at for both her parents. We do want to help with this. Does anyone know?
    Ruth Kirk-Wilson

  10. Cousin Mat says:

    I’d just like to say that it’s very gratifying (but unsurprising) to read that Lisa’s life touched so many people.

    She made many happy family times in St Luc possible through her generosity, and was such a caring hostess – for that we will always be grateful. Her knowledge and passion for the mountains were infectious, and I will always admire the compassion and understanding she found for the local kids when they were causing havoc in Thornhill Square. She will be very greatly missed.

    When I have news of arrangements I’ll certainly post it up here if it is yet to be so.

    And Ruth, the webmaster should be able to put you in touch with me directly as this is moderated and they have our email addresses?

  11. David Oxnam says:

    How deeply sadden I was to hear of the very untimely death of my friend Lisa. I have lived in Kings Cross for twenty odd years and Lisa and I first started working together on community projects with the regeneration of the Regents Canal. ( Lisa had started many other local initiatives long before I got involved). In the bad old days, you could not get on to the towpath, as there was corrugated iron all down the sides. Once the major battles on canal had been won, Lisa twisted my arm to get involved with Edward Square and latterly the Friends of Edward Square. Without Lisa’s tenacity and drive I am sure that we would never have had the wonderful square that we have today.

    Once one got to know Lisa, one soon realised just how many people’s lives she touched and improved for the better. I was always amazed at the community events she contributed too and the concern that she had in maintaining a sense of ownership in the history and values of Kings Cross and Islington. I am sure that even her opponents on the ‘planning’ battlefields gave her grudging respect for encyclopaedic knowledge of our local area.

    We both shared a love in all things Swiss, and skiing which was yet another side to Lisa’s rich personality.

    A huge hole will be left in our community by Lisa’s untimely departure, I do hope we will have the opportunity to celebrate her life in the not too distant future.

  12. I’m very saddened to hear of Lisa’s tragic death and remember with great pleasure the visits by Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to Kate Greenaway Nursery School which Lisa arranged, and I’ll think of her every time I walk through the square.

  13. Margot Dunn says:

    I live off Madras Place and ride a tricycle but am incredibly careful when using that cycle crossing into Fieldway Crescent. I was coming home and saw the police tape and heard about the lady who was knocked down by the huge cement lorry. When I heard it was my old friend and political opponent Lisa Pontecorvo I was devastated. The really nice thing about being friends with Lisa was that you could disagree about the course of one of her pet projects but never about the sentiments that guided her.The chimneys over which she and I battled together against a developer up to and including a Hearing was only one of our memorable encounters. She was one of a kind!

  14. Margaret Spencer says:

    I have just heard, from another St Anne’s friend, Judy Hague, about Lisa’s death. It’s difficult to take in that someone so bursting with life and energy should be no more. In the last few years my husband Chris and I had got back in touch with Lisa, and had 3 lovely visits to the Swiss chalet. I shared a love of walking and a passion for alpine flowers with Lisa – we spent hours botanising round St Luc. It was fantastic to be with someone who knew the mountains so well – all the places had personal memories for her. And of course we heard about all the latest planning battles, and marvelled at her energy and involvement. It doesn’t seem possible that we won’t see Lisa again.

  15. Christine Lehmann says:

    I only knew Lisa for a very short period of time. In that time, she inspired me with her relentless excitement and enthusiasm for Crumbles Castle and all of the other amazing projects in her much-loved neighborhood. Her enthusiasm and encouragement will be much missed but never forgotten. She was selfless and cared so much for the local children and young people. I am saddened that I did not have more time to spend with her, I will miss her very much. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to help in the celebration of her life.

  16. judy hague says:

    lisa, ruth and I were at university together, and we’ve been friends ever since. Laughing with lisa, exchanging news( always passionate and committed on her part), enjoying her hospitality, marvelling at her utterly unique take on life – this is all going to stay with us – but such a life cut short, and in such a way…..I can’t find words just now.

  17. Cllr Lisa Spall says:

    I only knew lisa very briefly as ward councillor of caledonian, but she was a lovely lady who i found to be warm and kind but also very passionate about the community.

    Edward square is a prime example of all lisa’s are work and determination.

    This is such sad news, I hear goes out to her family and friends. x

  18. Oliver and Sofia Craxton says:

    We cannot believe what has happened, Lisa as everybody would agree was such an energetic and supportive person, incredibly intelligent and interested in life. Being a cyclist and having known Lisa it makes it so much worse that such terrible accidents can happen in our streets. A campaign (Lisa’s style) is required to do something so that pedestrians, cyclists, taxis, cars and lorries can travel in some kind of harmony. A loss like this one should not have happened -whether it was Lisa or anybody else, this should not happen!

    Dear Lisa: Just this morning as I was cycling near Rosebery Avenue I was thinking how easy it would be for a lorry not to see a cyclist and how nothing could be done to stop such a horrible accident. Little did I know of the awful thing that happened yesterday. You will be greatly missed. Thank you for your support and enthusiasm with my crazy ideas and with the Craxton Trust. Somehow I think that from now on, everytime I make Pavlova pudding I will think of you and will make sure there is an extra chunk with extra berries just for you. Sofia

  19. Alastair Murray says:

    This is to endorse the good things said by Paul and others here. I learned of Lisa’s tragic death last night and still can’t really take it in – she’s been in my thoughts all day.
    We met in 2000, I think it was, at the founding meeting of the “Friends of Edward Square” or FREDS. Characteristically she was too modest to take credit for saving the Square, always insisting that Sadie and the others were the main campaigners. I’m sure that Sadie – no slouch on the campaigning side herself – would join with all of us to say how valuable Lisa’s knowledge and campaigning heart were to that project, as well as her utter conviction that all the local kids deserve the best of facilities and activities.
    I once asked her if she was related to the film maker Gillo Pontecorvo, director of the superb Battle of Algiers, and yes – she was his niece (Maybe someone could confirm this?)
    Also feeling a sense of anger and deep sadness that Lisa joins the ranks of cyclists who have died on London’s roads. Critical mass could organise to go to that spot and pay cyclists’ tribute to Lisa, that excellent lady.

  20. I work at the Buddhist Centre opposite to the accident scene and was both shocked and saddened to hear about it from, firstly, the police that evening then the next day from my colleagues. But I am so very relieved to hear the wonderful rejoicing in Lisa’s talent for affecting people constructively and endearingly. My experience was of the stunning emptiness of the road and tent guarding the fatal spot opposite us when I got back there from an outside job at about 9.30. I have observed for years the inept way that traffic is controlled at that junction. Vehicles travelling south stop promptly at Fieldway Crescent whereas north travelling ones will move steadily across the bike path because the lights are then behind them and the tailback from the Liverpool Road junction ahead will slowly bunching up to make them space they wander into – unfortunately that space includes a very narrow faded yellow crosshatch section that the unwary cyclist could assume is sacrosanct – it isn’t as I’ve observed the heedless drivers take offence when the more vocal cyclists quite rightly abuse them.
    I organised the little ritual we did Tuesday not knowing anything other than a cyclist had been killed. Whatever I can do I hope to give. Perhaps especially for someone who herself gave such a lot. I am a filmmaker and would happily shoot the traffic lights cycle from the point of view of cyclists coming from St Mary Magdalene’s onto the Holloway Road. We should do something to mark the spot and develop more awareness of the area (not that there’s a continuously growing awareness at that junction) that has so much character, history and potential. I feel Lisa would approve.
    My deepest condolences to friends and family.

  21. Alison Furnham says:

    This is tragic news. I knew Lisa for over 17 years, from the time we became neighbours in Thornhill Square. Almost immediately she made me aware of local issues. I had never been on a ‘demo’ before Lisa invited me to hold a placard against the closure of West Library!
    Only this summer she helped a group of us oppose a development proposal, firing off long and passionate emails from Switzerland, packed with information and advice. She gave us the benefit of her huge experience and knowledge of planning matters and was always the first person to turn to.
    The manner of her untimely death was dreadful and it is a cruel irony that she was killed on the streets of the borough she loved so much. I shall miss her greatly.

  22. Jessica Redfern says:

    I have been a personal friend of Lisa since the late 70’s and I knew her father. My husband (now deceased)and I went to Switzerland as “geri-sitters” for many years (at least 12 times) and it was always wonderful to be there. I would have been seeing her back here in October when she was due to come back after another two weeks out there. How tragic that she should come back for a couple of weeks to this horrifying fate.

    Naturally I am very keen to know of the arrangements to be made for her funeral and like so many others who have contributed to thie site, I shall keep looking out for any notices. I send my loving sympathy to her aunt and cousins … her aunt and one of her cousins I have met but do not know their addresses to be able to write to them now.

  23. Aron Cronin says:

    Lisa was indeed Gillo Pontecorvo’s niece – but they were not much in touch. Her father, an eminent geneticist, left Italy in 1938 when Mussolini brought in a law dismissing all Jews from Government positions. I have always had a private theory that this was at the root of her absolute determination to see rights and proper process respected.
    This corner of Islington will be much the poorer without her.

  24. Rupert and Ann Perry says:

    Three days on and Ann and I are still reeling. We have been involved in talking with many who knew Lisa, some from way back, reflecting on her amazing life and her impact on our community in and around the Cally.

    On Tuesday night after West Area Committee (which she would have been at), we drank a bottle of red wine in her memory. Lisa would visit with a bottle or two of her Aunt’s fine burgundy and we shall miss that.

    Once, in the middle of the night, we had ring or our bell. It was Lisa, unable to gain access to her house, having broken the key in the lock. Fortunately the problem was quickly solved and we could laugh about it afterwards.

    It was often late at night that an angry Lisa might release her frustations by going to the top bathroom (so as not to disturb the neighbours) to sing sixties protest songs. She said it always seemed to help.

    Lisa and her father moved into Thornhill Sq a few years after us. We were all keen to be involved in the area and we have been campaigning together ever since. She was not afraid and enjoyed the epithet “The Rottweiler”. Even death threats did not deter her.

    All our family knew her, and our children are just as devastated. As Edna Griffiths said to me “Some people you assume will be there forever.” Her legacy certainly will be.

    Whilst she is no longer physically able to campaign, we will continue in her spirit to keep what she created alive.

    Ann and Rupert Perry

  25. Rupert and Ann Perry says:

    Three days on and Ann and I are still reeling. We have been involved in talking with many who knew Lisa, some from way back, reflecting on her amazing life and her impact on our community in and around the Cally.

    On Tuesday night after West Area Committee (which she would have been at), we drank a bottle of red wine in her memory. Lisa would visit with a bottle or two of her Aunt’s fine burgundy and we shall miss that.

    Once, in the middle of the night, we had ring or our bell. It was Lisa, unable to gain access to her house, having broken the key in the lock. Fortunately the problem was quickly solved and we could laugh about it afterwards.

    It was often late at night that an angry Lisa might release her frustations by going to the top bathroom (so as not to disturb the neighbours) to sing sixties protest songs. She said it always seemed to help.

    Lisa and her father moved into Thornhill Sq a few years after us. We were all keen to be involved in the area and we have been campaigning together ever since. She was not afraid and enjoyed the epithet “The Rottweiler”. Even death threats did not deter her.

    All our family knew her, and our children are just as devastated. As Edna Griffiths said to me “Some people you assume will be there forever.” Her legacy certainly will be.

    Whilst she is no longer physically able to campaign, we will continue in her spirit to keep what she created alive.

    Ann and Rupert Perry

  26. Diana Shelley says:

    I first met Lisa about 20 years ago, at an Islington and Hackney CND meeting. They didn’t do things properly, the way they had in Hampstead CND, she complained as we came home together! But I got to know her better through her community campaigning—can’t remember when as she seems always to have been here—but most particularly when the neighbourhood was threatened by a particularly disruptive plan for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in 1994. Lisa helped form the Cally Rail Group and worked indefatigably in it for 15 years, first to get the scheme we now have, to protect the area from the worst impacts during construction and, latterly, in Cally Rail and other groups to try and get the kind of development on the KX Railway Lands the area needs (OK, we failed there, but not for lack of Lisa trying).
    Lisa was a mine of information about the planning system, conservation issues and how to get to the powers that be, coupled with being the best leafleter I have ever known (she could reach doors no one else knew were there). And she was great company—the time Rupert and Ann recall her key breaking was after a rumbustious meal a group of us involved in the KX Triangle Appeal had in February. She was irrepressible.
    Yes, sometimes she could bang on about things, but she was also very sensitive. My partner, Phil Jeffries, has just been diagnosed with lung cancer. A fortnight after I emailed the news to Cally Rail people I’d heard nothing from Lisa, and thought perhaps she hadn’t logged on from St Luc. Not at all: last Saturday another friend ran into her and found Lisa was agonising about how best to respond without being intrusive. Should she email? Should she phone? (How I wish she’d had time to do either!) Then apparently she decided the best thing would be to offer something practical—to help me sort out the Cally Rail Group files and get them to an appropriate archive. Just what Lisa would think of: first the campaign, then making sure its records are safe for future historians. Thanks to Lisa, a great deal of material is already
    in the London Metropolitan Archives, and campaigners of the future will be able to find out about the King’s Cross Railway Lands Group, King’s Cross Action Group, Crossfire, King’s Cross Development Trust and Thornhill Neighbourhood Project (and no doubt some others I don’t know about).
    The struggle continues.

  27. Alison Rice says:

    As girlfriend to Mat Maroni, I was very fortunate to first meet Lisa in 2001 when we stayed with her at the chalet in St Luc. Ever since, both Lisa and St Luc played a special part in my life. Lisa gave us the gift of spending significant family times either at Christmas or New Year together – I’ll never forget Christmas there, all of us helping Lisa decorate the tree on the balcony and putting on REAL candles – amazing! That’s what I liked about being around Lisa, she enlightened us by sharing and introducing the traditions relevant to where we were.

    Lisa was also very understanding of the youth and unlike many, took time to try and understand them. I could tell that she enjoyed having us youngsters around in the Chalet even if it did mean her worrying at times, but she would always want to sit down and ask questions (usually over a bottle of fine red wine!) and actually find out what ‘our’ thoughts were and listen to them.

    I’ll always remember the time I came back to the chalet after an afternoon of trying to snowboard. I went upstairs to change and heard the familiar call of ‘Al’ from downstairs – that was my call to come down and have some tea and a chat – I felt honoured that she wanted to. I know first hand that Lisa would genuinely be upset if we didn’t tell her how our day had been or give her our accounts of the time spent in the mountains, a place so dear to her heart.

    With the greatest affection I think it is fair to say that Lisa was unique and yes, it took me time to get used to her strong mind but my god her heart was always in the right place.
    Lisa – You really will be sadly missed but our love, affection and admiration for you will continue to live on.

    Love Al

  28. Gregory Pontecorvo says:

    I was shocked and saddened to hear of Lisa’s death. I am her cousin, and while I only met her a few times, memories of my visits with her both in London and in the U.S where I live, are vivid. She was determined in her dedication to campaign for causes she supported and was always ready have a lively discussion, driven by her convictions yet always with a great sense of humor. I remember she would jokingly hold me and the others in the American branch of the Pontecorvo family personally responsible for Presidents Reagan and Bush despite (or because of) our inability to vote more than once against each of them. She was instrumental in keeping the different far-flung branches of our family in touch with each other and always made an effort to stay in touch.
    It is a very sad day.

  29. Massimo Andreis Allamandola says:

    Addio Lisa. Hai lasciato madre terra !!! You loved your bicycle and with her you left…
    I remember you Lisa at the little cycle mass around St Pancras in the morning of the
    opening of the new station… that was fun! I agree that should be a commemoration at the next
    critical mass, but more important, the new King’s Cross Cycle links that should be able to
    connect the basin in the direction of Agar Grove and Camden Square should be fast tracked
    and dedicated to her !!!

    I just hope, that cement lorry that took Lisa away, was not directed towards York Way and
    King’s Cross … that Lisa loudly defended to make it better and more humane, over all these

    Ciao Lisa … King’s Cross sara’ piu’ triste senza di te .

  30. Cherry Forbes says:

    I think it is a great tribute to Lisa to read such wonderful comments about her. I met Lisa about four years ago as our orchestra was preparing to move to Kings Place. Since then we have worked on many projects together through FREDS and her passion for fighting for Islington was remarkable.

    Earlier on Monday she had come to our office at Kings Place excited about the opening events there and thrilled that local children will be involved in the new builidng. We would like to pass on our sincere condolences to Lisa’s family. Myself and some of my colleagues would love to play for her memory as she adored classical music so please do let us know of any occasions this would be appropriate.

    I hope we can live up to her expectations and hopes for the local community and build on her leagcy.

    Cherry Forbes, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

  31. Frances Cairncross says:

    I have been travelling in the US this week, following with grief the news of Lisa’s death.

    She was in my class at Laurel Bank, a direct-grant school in Glasgow (she always retained a faint burr of Glasgow in her voice). She arrived, a gawky, lonely little girl, the late and only child of refugee parents. Her father had a chair at Glasgow University. She was, I think, always a bit of a square peg at school, and her early life had been different from ours.

    One of her uncles, Bruno, who had been involved in the British atom programme, had defected to the Soviet Union in 1950. Lisa recalled her home in Glasgow being doorstepped by journalists. She and I discovered only much later that we had this in common, since my uncle turned out to have spied for Russia.

    My mother claimed that, when she had asked Lisa as a child whether she was related to Gillo Pontecorvo, Lisa had replied (to my mother’s amusement), “Yes, he’s the black sheep of the family.” – the distinguished film director had been a bit of a playboy in his youth.

    Lisa was happier at Oxford University, where she came a year behind me to St Anne’s College. She had good friends in Judy and Ruth, who have posted already. I saw less of her then, and less still when she and her father moved to Islington, although I immensely admired the solicitous way that she looked after him. I suspect he was not always easy company. And I have a stack of postcards somewhere from St Luc, the summer home in Switzerland that she had loved to visit since her childhood.

    But it was clear that, in Islington’s environment, she found both a role – or many roles – and many friends. The only redeeming thing about her tragic death is the astonishing number of people whose lives she touched, and who felt affection for her. She acquired through her stubborn, intelligent, utterly honest campaigning a great circle of good friends. At her parties – which always had a touch of the 60s about them (wine and cheese) – the house in Thornhill Square always seemed crammed with people whom she had coaxed and harried into making our part of North London a better place. She was never one to court friends deliberately, although she was hugely kind and selfless – and so it is particularly wonderful that so many people loved her, and understood what a special person she was.

    Frances Cairncross

  32. Peter Coppack says:

    It is very difficult to think of the Cally Rd area without Lisa. It’s equally hard to imagine who could possibly replace her in all the roles she took on with such enthusiam. A very sad loss for all of us.

  33. Barry Edwards says:

    I heard of Lisa’s death not long after coming back from the funeral of John Eustace, the Housing Manager at Lyon Street Housing Office. In different ways both John and Lisa had contributed so much to Islington and their deaths leave two large holes in the social fabric of our community.

    Barry Edwards
    Councillor for Holloway Ward

  34. Vijya Patel says:

    The news came as a shock and I still can’t believe that Lisa is no longer with us. Her tireless dedication to the community will of course never be forgotten, and will live on in her legacy of achievements. The combination of her strength of character and vivacity was unique, and she was one of a kind. I tribute Cally Traders to her, had it not been for her badgering council, for the need of a traders group, we might not have even formed. I will always remember her for wonderful person she was.

  35. David Trillo says:

    The world cannot afford to lose people like Lisa. She will be greatly missed.

  36. This is so sad. It’s hard to believe that someone with so much energy could have passed so quickly. I am Lisa’s cousin. And, like the other american Pontecorvos, have not had many visits with Lisa. A few years ago Lisa came to visit with me and my family in North Carolina and I got to know her a little better. Hiking in the mountains, I was amazed at Lisa’s knowledge of plants and their evolution. I know this has been a lifelong passion. We talked about related plants in Europe and in Asia, where she had tagged along with her father and obviously absorbed volumes of information. We discussed alot of the projects she had going on at home in England, but I had no idea of the years she has been doing this.

  37. Jane and Caroline Blunden says:

    Lisa was a close friend of ours over many years and a wonderful friend; we are so sorry to hear of this tragic accident. She was a remarkable character who made a special impact on the lives of many people in her local community – both in Islington and in St Luc, in Switzerland. The last time I saw her was in Edward Square at a community event in early summer … it was a lovely afternoon, we sat on the grass knitting and making drawings with local children; she was the hub of that community and ‘made things happen’ … Her father ‘Ponte’ often remarked that Lisa could do more as an individual to CHANGE things for the better than had she worked within an organisation. Her great capacity to be a voice for the voiceless in her neighbourhood was heard and long may it continue to be heard. Can we have a park named The Lisa Pontecorvo Park in any area of Islington that the Council may be able to provide or some such commemoration in her name for the valuable contribution she made. We always joked that she should become a Dame ….. but Lisa would have none of that!


    On the last telephone call – which lasted over 45 minutes – she asked what Jane and I would like for “our” joint 120th birthday. “A tree” I replied… and we
    will plant one in her honour in Ireland where we live. She was a great supporter of my work in contemporary Chinese paintings – and collected many paintings from my exhibitions and also supported Jane’s Mongolian guide book.

    WE LOVED HER AND WILL MISS HER….having spent 10 summers staying in St Luc with Lisa and her father. The last thing he said to Jane in hospital was to look after her. Typically Lisa was the one who looked after us and so many others too.

  38. Meg Howarth says:

    I won’t forget Lisa or her kindness to Ellie and myself. We still have that copy of ‘Politically Correct Fairytales’. Great stuff!


  39. Bernard & Moyra Cohen says:

    As old Glasgow University friends of her family, and colleague of her father’s, we have known Lisa since she was a schoolgirl,”gerisat” at St Luc, stayed with her in Thornhill just a few weeks ago, and greatly admired both her Islington Rottweiler activities and her warm humanity. Her tragic death touches us too deeply for words.

  40. maria papoui says:

    I had the honour to share a local parks forum with Lisa. So inspiring, astute and with no ego at all. And all the while offering a very nervous me encouragement.
    I think it would be fitting to her memory to campaign for action about the crossing for cyclists at Fieldway Crescent.

  41. Barbara Pontecorvo says:

    Like a previous writer, I thought Lisa would always be with us, and was looking forward to planning to stop in London to visit with her. I am terribly sad at this loss. Poli (Guido’s brother, my husband, who died 4 years ago)and I met Lisa when she was a child, but grew to know her more when we met in London, St. Luc and the US later on. Since Poli died, Lisa had the endearing habit of phoning me a few times a year, keeping in touch with animnated conversations about her current involvements with various causes. A high point for me was her visit two years ago. Her love of historical sites and of different cultures made walking through Boston with her a delightful experience – she read tombstones, explored local buildings, and chatted with people along the way. We also purchased several different beers so she could try some new ones. Poli and I were very very fond of her. We will miss her generous hospitality, good humor, energy, intelligence and wide-ranging interests. We admired her for her dedication and effectiveness in making good things happen locally. I will miss her as a vital, enthusiastic, good-spirited younger relative.

  42. Billy Dyet says:

    My thoughts are with all that knew Lisa and the lorry driver. She was clearly a much loved person.
    I witnessed the horrific incident as I was driving right behind the cement mixer lorry. I still can’t get the images out of my head. It was horrible. Apart from myself there was a man and woman close by so she was not alone. Between us we did all that could be done. I called for an ambulance but she was just too badly injured to have any chance of survival. If it is any consolation she didn’t suffer. It was over for her very quickly and I don’t think she saw it coming.

  43. Kaufmann Pierre-Alain and family from St-Luc says:

    Notre voisine de St-Luc Lisa est partie… Nous allions enménager bientôt dans notre nouveau chalet et nous nous réjouissions d’être les voisins de Lisa.
    Lisa, combien de fois avons nous discutté du développement de St-Luc et de ce qu’il y manque et de ce qu’il faut faire, de la Commune, du tourisme et de tout et de rien. Lisa tu vas me manqué et tu vas manqué à St-Luc.
    Dans notre village Lisa était une figure connue de tous. Lisa n’a jamais laissé quelqu’un indifférent. Lisa vous allez me manquer, j’aimais vraiment me disputer avec vous.
    Lisa nous vous souhaitons bon voyage et j’espère que vous trouverez le bonheur éternel dans les montagnes du paradis.
    Camille, Tristan, Maxime, Patricia et Pierre-Alain Kaufmann Chardon

  44. ryan & sue says:

    How can a blog do justice to someone who had so much influence on our area.

    Having invented the concept of “sweat equity” while we all worked together throughout the 90’s as part of our long successful Copenhagen Forum, Lisa’s contributions to our neighbourhood are far too numerous to list and many people have already pointed to her amazing work for Edward Square as well as all her efforts to make sure our Neighbourhood’s Built Environment preserved the great that the Victorians made for us. All her efforts to archive local information using the resources of the London Metropolitan Archive will provide much future information for generations to come. Without her input to so many meetings how much detail would we have missed.

    Lisa was kind, forthright, challenging, persistent and and tenacious. Although she was likened to a rottweiler when defending a local cause, she was like a terrier in ferreting out details others had overlooked and which often resulted in the success of the scheme in question. Passionate about improving the area she always saw her projects through to the end and was a great believer in the power of people, individually and collectively, to change things.

    We’ve known Lisa for over fifteen years and were both very fond of her. It will be strange not having her at planning meetings, objecting to mansard roofs or other plans affecting conservation and not being detained for hours in the street or on the phone while she talks enthusiastically about her latest mission. We will always expect to see her riding along on her bike with her beige mac open and flapping along behind her.

    She has left a great hole in the local community but we must always remember and uphold her belief that if people work together they can move mountains.

    Ryan and Sue

  45. Jeannie Burnett says:

    Lisa was a wonderful ally, and a beam of inspiration on things that really mattered. She was a stalwart member of Islington CAC and latterly of Kings Cross CAAC. She likened herself to a Rottweiler in that she would never let go of her objective. She was an indefatigable researcher who would winkle out information from reluctant organisations and persons in a way that the rest of us could never have achieved. We will remember her taking up of causes, her determination to see them through – and her lovely quirky sense of humour. We have lost a very splendid and original person who had huge integrity. She was a very constant and good friend who had the power of getting one to do a whole lot of things that one didn’t necessarily want to do at all, but that one knew that one ought to do. We will all miss her very much, especially for her energy and commitment to continuing the fight against all that is wrong with the Kings Cross Railway Lands development.


  46. Anna Rice says:

    We all at the London Sinfonietta have been deeply saddened to hear the news about Lisa. Over the past two and half years in my role I had built a solid, honest and respectful relationship with Lisa and was always so astounded by her passion for the local area.

    I will sorely miss the lively and exciting debates we had and am very sad that the ensemble will not have the opporunity to work with her – something we had started to discuss.

    However we look forward to continuing our work in Kings Cross and remembering Lisa for helping us to get there.

    Anna Rice, Participation Manager, London Sinfonietta

  47. David Pontecorvo says:

    I too was stunned and contnue to be so sad about this terrible loss. I’m another American cousin of Lisa’s and, like my brothers, knew her more through family lore than personal contact. I do remember being led around the British Museum for a day by Lisa when I visited England in the early 1970s at age 14. Then as now, she had a fascination and enthusiasm for history–probably beyond my adolescent abilities to appreciate, I’m afraid. In more recent phone conversations we had lively discussions about the state of the world and the appalling acts of the American government. I always thought we’d get to know each other in person some day, and would have so much to share about politics, community, arts, family history…While that is not to be, I am glad to read the words of so many whose lives she touched and to learn about her passion, integrity and decency.

  48. Ms Simo Maronati says:

    Hello there… 1st of all i want to give my DEEPEST condolences to all who loved Lisa Pontecorvo.
    I didn’t know Lisa, but i (being a cyclist myself) was behind the lorry that killed her, i can’t even begin to put into words what i felt in those agonizing moments, having lost a dear friend myself under the wheels of a lorry… knowing the pain and anger that comes up, and pain and anger certainly all came up for me that day, and i’m still getting over it.
    I know that Junction very well, i pass it practically every day, i’m not a scientist but i certainly know that one of the traffic lights is just not in a good position at all!! Those cycle lights are rarely respected, from the drivers that are coming from the direction of the Highbury and Islington roundabout!! And then they inevitably end up on the yellow box, from where they’re desperate to get out of… and so on.
    Such a waste, so unbearable really, i call lorries “Cycle Killers” and stay well clear of them.
    All the best to everyone, stay safe, god bless and good bye.


  49. Frances Thorpe says:

    Impossible to believe such a tragic end for such lively and caring person. I first met Lisa in 1969 at the Slade in connection with her work with film research and modern history, and was always impressed with her capacity for new ideas and her breadth of interest. She will be greatly missed by many friends in her numerous spheres of interests.

  50. Jean & Philip James says:

    We did not know Lisa well but, in common I am sure with many Islington residents, we were soon aware of her many contributions to the community. Within a short time of our move to Islington (in 1999)we noticed her memorable name cropping up frequently in local news and soon made her acquaintance at events in association with plans for Regent Quarter and the Railway Lands developments where her views were always firmly and succinctly stated! On her bicycle, her billowing skirts worried me for fear that they would catch in the chain or wheel and cause her to fall under a vehicle, so it is ironic to know that her death occurred when she was sensibly wheeling her bike at a crossing. Her passing is an immeasurable loss to so many people whose lives she touched, perhaps often without their even knowing it so it has been heartening to read the wonderful tributes to her multi-faceted character on this site.

  51. Lindsey Jackson says:

    The staff, children and families at Copenhagen Primary School will miss Lisa so much. She had become a very frequent visitor and friend to our school. She joined us in many activities and took real pleasure from seeing the results of her efforts in the enjoyment of the children. Personally Lisa and I worked together for 8 years. I can’t imagine this area without her and still keep expecting her to cycle into the playground with a large parcel of papers and flyers for events she helped organise. We all feel so sad right now.

  52. Roland Gurney says:

    I have only just heard of Lisa’s tragic and untimely death this afternoon. I have known her both personally and professionally since 1983 and through her met her father guido who was a distinguished geneticist and FRS. I feel I shared many of her values notably on green and ethical issues. She had both a kind heart and a keen mind and I am amazed at the number of local projects she got involved with.
    Certainly Edwards Square will be a durable monument to her.
    I last saw her in London on 30 June and was in touch with her by telephone and email very recently.I am still staggered by the suddenness of her going
    and realise how much she will be missed.

  53. Liz and Vere Atkinson says:

    We are deeply saddened by Lisa´s untimely death. Lisa, a very strong character with a great sense of social justice, was always aware of problems of those less advantaged than herself, especaially immigrants (her father had fled Mussolini´s Italy before the war and settled in Britain). She was always ready to tackle what she perceived to be unfair or the stupidity of authority. I have often told her that she would have made a wonderful rugby player.
    Another side of Lisa was her very strong sense of family. Our relationship with Lisa´s family goes back to the late sixties when her parents came out to Brazil for the British Council. We kept contact through the years, met Lisa, at that point a film researcher, in Germany subsequently all met up in various parts of the globe.
    It was always such pleasure to be with them all, conversation covered a multitude of subjects which included their considerable knowledge of mountains and alpine flora.
    After Lisa’s mother died we became gerri-sitters and naturally our friendship with Lisa still continued after Ponti´s death, spending happy times walking at St Luc, sharing some fun moments here in Barcelona, not to mention theatrical trips in London.
    I last called her about a month ago at St Luc. She told me about planned visits to some of her elderly aunts although she herself wasn´t feeling too well. How typical of her to still be thinking of going.
    There are too many memories to list, but they were all happy ones. The world will be a less colourful place without her.

    • Manel Fonseka says:

      I wonder if you (Liz and Vere A) will ever see this message to you. I Knew Liza in the early 1960s in London. we went for films together. Lost touch with her, but coincidentally, I also worked at the BC in those Pay & records (later Recorded Sound), and am sure I remember helping to “administer” you abroad somewhere. If you were in Brazil then, you prob “came under” Joan Ruthven, tho. I think I was engaged with S-E & W Asia. I bumped into Lisa – absol out of the blue– when she was in Sri lanka – i think the late 1980s. I have been trying to contact someone who knew her then ever since. can you contact me at
      Thank you – manel fonseka

  54. Tom Clarke says:

    Dreadfull news. I have worked at Camley Street for two and a half years and had the pleasure of her time on a few occasions. What a woman! She had relentless energy and the world will be a poorer place without her. Her passion for Edward Square was astonishing and she was always trying to get us to do stuff for her – quite right too! A good woman who wanted to leave the world a better place, I think in Edward Square we can all see that she has done. If there is any way we can help at E Sq let me know,

    Tom, Camley Street

  55. Pamela Mansi says:

    With fondest memories

  56. Giorgio Liberati says:

    I spent more than a year at Lisa’s place as a lodger in a time of great difficulty for me and my family. Lisa was very generous in having me, a distant unknown relative, at her place in Thornhill Square, at a time of great difficulty with my job. She had great strength, she loved the sense of community even within a large town and she understood and interpreted very well her role as the cally rottweiler (should I say Cally’s angel now?), since she had the time and resources to help her community and she placed them well.
    Dear Lisa, it looked like you were not taking notice of your pain when falling from a ladder or having both feet operated at the same time. After a meeting at one of your committees you were sharing your anger and that showed how much you cared. You were reacting with a glass of bordeaux, but the next day you were up for another fight, all for the benefit of your neighbours.
    Your ‘Moro in Camicia’ will no more be the succulent cake offered to joyous friends on 5th May. But your great spirit will be remembered and will inspire many of us.
    Thanks for all you did for our small family, Lisa.

    Giorgio Liberati, Anna Tabet, Sara Liberati (Roma-Italy)

  57. anna tabet says:

    Scrivo in italiano perché Lisa con me lo parlava spesso: desidero ringraziarla ancora per quello che ha fatto, così generosamente, per la mia famiglia.
    Ciao, Lisa.

    Anna e Sara

  58. Veronica Gayer (now Byrne), BBC radio production secretary says:

    She stormed into our BBC office at Ally Pally and out again, like a whirlwind or a tornado. However, there was no damage, only a feeling of immense change – that someone so bursting with knowledge and enthusiasm can provoke. I remember her to this day which is now about 32 years on. It is wonderful to hear what she has achieved in her life and I am so sorry that she will not grow old with us. May she rest in peace.

  59. Anne Fleming says:

    I was stunned to hear of the tragic and unfair accident that caused Lisa’s death.

    My memories of Lisa are not of the tireless campaigner for local causes,that so many of you remember, but of the pioneer film researcher, who worked on the War and Society history foundation courses at the Open University and many other television productions, determinedly searching through the film archives of the UK and Europe at a time when they were much more difficult to access than they are today.

    She was active at a time when the value of film to the historian was far from accepted and her work did much to demonstrate that it could be an important document for study alongside the more conventional paper record. In her film research she was a stickler for accuracy and saved many directors and producers from making errors.

    I will always remember her energy, determination and generosity.

  60. Roger Madelin says:

    Whilst I did not always agree with Lisa, over the past 8 years she was always as part of the railway lands as the 67 acres of the land itself. I will miss her greatly.
    I respected her opinions as I know she held them sincerely and passionately. I was very much looking forward to winning the bet I made with her that when we stood in Granary Square in 2012 and looked around she was going to be able to say this is really good!
    Her tragic death is a great loss to the community she worked so hard to serve.
    My thoughts are with those who were closer to her than me.
    Roger Madelin

  61. Meg Howarth says:

    Thank you to Ruth and all who made possible the moving and memorable send-off for Lisa at the crematorium, and to family members for their later hospitality at Thornhill Road.

  62. Mary Turner says:

    I first met Lisa when the Cally Rail group used to meet in the church in Thornhill Square and always admired her courage and persistense in pursuing so many local causes and taking many initiatives. And it is wonderful to learn from all the tributes she has inspired just how busy and admired she was. I’m sure we are all thinking about a what would be a good memorial to her.My immediate thought would be to push for effective traffic controls on that stretch of the Holloway road which if I recall correctly had alrady claimed at least 13, maybe with Lisa 14 lives. Mary Turner,

  63. Isobel Johnstone says:

    My sister and I (we are twins) first met Lisa, aged 5, at school in Glasgow. We had many happy times with her, in her parents garden off Gt Western Road, playing leapfrog and eating waffles – to us then very exotic biscuits, made by Lisa’s mother, Lenie. I think it was around the time one of Lisa’s other uncles, Bruno a nuclear scientst, went to Russia, that she left Hillhead Primary and went to a private school, Laurel Bank, along the road. We remained close friends nonetheless, aways revelling (we were more conventional wee lassies) in the dramatic take Lisa had on life. Her ardour and interest in history were to make her an exceptional ‘film ferret’ in the career she followed after university, and this passion was later focussed on local issues, as is vividly demonstrated in these many tributes. I don’t think life was easy for Lisa but she tackled it with integrity and valour.
    It was through Lisa that we were introduced to Italy, at the seaside home of her wonderful Pontecorvo/Pellizzi/Ichino cousins. It was great irony for me that I was in Italy when she was killed. Indefatigable on the telephone,
    she was loving and funny face to face, a great life enhancer.

  64. Edward Stott says:

    Lisa Pontecorvo was a long-standing member of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) and we are all deeply shocked by her premature and violent death.

    Lisa’s interest were varied and far-reaching and I don’t know if anyone is quite sure how she became interested in carpets and textiles, or how she became involved with ORTS to begin with. We do know that she was instrumental, with a couple of others, in “saving” the society from dissolving when there was a crisis in the Committee in the late 1980s – one of those classic situations which happens in voluntary organizations. She became Honorary Secretary from 1988 onwards and for a busy six to seven years period, arranged a full schedule of activities for the Society. This was a time when the Society grew and flourished.

    We all knew that Lisa was very much involved in the local community and local politics in Islington but I think we have all been taken aback by the extent and involvement of her commitments. She was clearly a tremendous force for good.

    Many of us will remain with fond memories of her, hurrying from one meeting to the next, with her hallmark bicycle and high visibility belt (and nearly always late!). She is a great loss to the Society.

    Committee – ORTS

  65. Rosemary Kay (nee Johnstone) says:

    My twin sister, Isobel, and I met Lisa when we were five years old in Primary One at Hillhead High School Junior School in Glasgow. She was a very special friend, unusual because of her Swiss Italian parents, Leni and Guido, but always strong-minded, generous, funny and frank. In those days she was also rather needy – in a way that exasperated but also endeared because I suppose it gave us the pleasure of being able to calm her down and help her. She was the last person ever to call us ‘Twinnies’:it saddens me that this childhood endearment pronounced by Lisa in that inimitably affectionate tone shall be heard no more. We would travel by tram out to their flat in the house off Great Western Road and play in the garden,and enjoy Leni’s home-baked treats and wonder at Guido’s alpine plants. Later Lisa introduced us to her lovely Italian cousins and thus to Italy. We have her to thank for opening up this world to us. Recently she was wonderfully encouraging to me with survival tips on foot operations: but oh how tragic that her straightened feet should carry her no further – just the kind of loopy thought that would make dear Lisa herself whoop with rueful laughter.
    Thank God it was quick. It is too sad.

  66. michael parkes says:

    I must have first met Lisa over 20 years ago and as the Planning Worker of 15 years for the King’s Cross Railway Lands Group, I have really vivid memories of her. She was vivid in every way, unforgettable, passionate and determined : one of the many unsung but priceless low flying heroes and heroines without whom London would be incomparably poorer. I see her as I write this, and send my condolences to her family and friends. Michael Parkes

  67. Deborah Fox says:

    When I met Lisa, whilst writing a guide for CABE called ‘It’s our space’, I was struck by the force of her personality and I realised then how important people like Lisa are in making things happen to improve life for everyone. She was a guiding force behind the spirit of the guide. But when I say ‘like’ Lisa – is there anyone that can compare? She invited me into her home and drew me into her vision. I found myself dashing over there after hours with armfulls of publications she could use in her meetings. She also saw the benefit of having someone like me, a public sector parks champion, in her contacts book and she made sure to use it! If ever there was an inspiration for all of us to get out there and make a difference in our local areas it’s Lisa. I’m doing it as the chair of the friends group of a large borough park in Reigate Surrey, and getting involved in new plans to do up my local park – so what are you waiting for? Deborah Fox

  68. Helen Carpenter says:

    I have only just learnt about this tragedy and am very shocked. Inspiring, infuriating at times perhaps, energetic, persistent and very committed to making things happen, often against very big odds….and succeeding where others would have given up. Definitely an inspiration. Lisa – you will not be forgotten.

  69. James Leahy says:

    It would be sad if the wave of celebration of Lisa’s contribution to her community, and of sadness at her tragic death, led to her contributions in the world of film to be obscured and forgotten. Film was a very important part of Lisa’s life, and all film people whom I have spoken to recently remember her with great respect and affection, as well as with great sadness at her premature death.

    I certainly knew Lisa far less well than most who have posted, but for three and a half decades I used to bump into her at conferences or screenings. Lisa was one of the first to realise the importance for historians of the accurate dating and identification of archive material. Her insights led Thorold Dickinson, her teacher on the pioneering course in Film Studies at the Slade School of Fine Art which he created, and on which Lisa did her postgraduate studies, to seek research funding for this purpose. The result was the Slade Film History Register, which identified and dated the bulk of the material featuring major historical figures or world events which was preserved in three major U.K. collections: the National Film Archive, the archive at the Imperial War Museum and Visnews. The Register moved on to the British Universities Film and Television Council when the Slade course and projects were closed down during a previous credit crunch.

    Thorold and Lisa sensed the entertainment potential of historical archive film, and the explosion in production of historical films and series for television that was then forthcoming, and is now with us. Several conferences and screening programmes engaged with the issues, and for a time it looked as if historical compilation filmmakers might become committed to respecting detailed historical accuracy when using archive material. However, the commercial pressures were strong; a new generation of historians with less understanding of the specificity of the filmic image came along, and so did a new generation of directors and researchers with less commitment to the standards of the pioneers. The voice-over commentary that implies an identification which it holds back from explicitly making, for fear of being found out, took on a new lease of life, and the historian as television superstar was born.

    Like Lisa, I think a commitment to rigorous standards of historical accuracy matters. Otherwise, we are on the steep and slippery slope leading to the re-writing of history. Michael Portillo, whom as a politician I’m sure Lisa disliked even more than I did, but who seems to be morphing into an interesting broadcaster, made this point forcefully and precisely a couple of weeks ago, on his Monday evening Radio 4 programme “Things We Forgot to Remember”. He was discussing how the 1930s Hunger Marches have effectively been written out of history by the slightly later Jarrow March, and how the misidentification and incorrect dating of an archive image was a major component in this process.

  70. Nick Barfoot says:

    I knew lisa quite well and worked with her to get Edward sq kept has a park for our community, without Lisa it would have not been posible. Lisa,s politics were complety diffren to mine has I support the British Nationa Party BNP. but I had the greatest respect for her. lisa rest in peace .

    Nick Barfoot

    • Narayani Gupta says:

      I don’t know what made me google Lisa’s name this morning, hoping to locate her (we were contemporaries at Oxford in the 1960s, and last met in 1971 when she was working for the Open University and lived in north London) and meet up if I were to go visit my son, now teaching at Queen Mary London. 45 years ! but she is as vivid as if I’d seen her yesterday, packing so many activities and enthusiasms into each day. Larger than life, and so self-deprecating and full of laughter. How I miss her. But how thankful that she went as she did, with no lingering illness. My chief regret is that she never made time to visit us in Delhi.
      I know its been years since she went, but I’d be grateful for any material on her. It will make me feel I have been in touch.

  71. Pingback: Celebrate the life of Edith Garrud on Saturday 30 June | Thornhill Square

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