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West End Extra - by JAMIE WELHAM
Published: 31 July 2009

Ian Wilder
A champion of West End who led clean-up crusade

City mourns loss of Ian Wilder who fought drunks and dealers

Ian Wilder, a Conservative councillor, who dogmatically fought to clean up the West End from drunks and drug dealers for more than 15 years, has died aged 62.
He gained the nickname the “video vigilante”, for his all night walkabouts, in which he recorded scenes of violence in the West End, once filming an attack in which a man died, to expose what he saw as the impotence of the council’s licensing enforcement.
Cllr Wilder, a former chartered accountant for the music impresario Harvey Goldsmith, who represented the West End ward since 1994, passed away on Tuesday in Houston, Texas, where he was receiving chemotherapy after a long ­battle with cancer.
Friends and colleagues will remember him as a man of action, a man so committed to the daily battles of residents in Soho, Chinatown and Mayfair, that he dragged himself from his hospital bed to join meetings over video-phone.
His long line of achievements include laying his hands on the binding 175-year-old covenant that consecrated the land on which under-threat St Mark’s Church stood for “ecclesiastical purposes forever”. The miraculous find ultimately persuaded the council to throw out plans to turn the Grade I-listed building into a health spa. He was also a vociferous defender of the much-derided eastern end of Oxford Street, campaigning against what he called “historical vandalism” of the famous street by the coming of Crossrail, and becoming a thorn in the side of the retail body the New West End Company, who he believed were trying to turn the street into a faceless high street.
His more left-field ideas, many of which captured the imagination of the public and the media, included an audacious bid to bring Formula 1 to the West End, and calls for a Japanese-style Monorail to run the length of Oxford Street.
Cllr Wilder grew up with his parents, who owned a tailors business in Soho.
He is survived by his wife, Dora, son and daughter.
Tributes have flooded in from fellow councillors on both sides of the political spectrum.
The Lord Mayor of Westminster Duncan Sandys said: “Ian was an incredibly hard-working, respected, valued councillor who committed himself to improving the lives of local residents and making Westminster a better place to live.
“In 15 years as a councillor, he was passionate about the West End and did a huge amount of good work in improving the area, helping to transform it into the world famous destination that it is today. Ian will be sorely missed and we offer our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.”
Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour group on the city council said: “Ian was a lovely man who fought for the West End and for local residents. He will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him. Never afraid to say what he believed to be the truth, he spearheaded a one-man crusade to clean up the West End. He ruffled feathers and courted controversy but his motives were never about personal publicity but about getting things done. He overflowed with ideas. He simply wanted the best for the West End.”

Play a song for me… but not for Mr Dylan

BOB Dylan famously doesn’t like listening to his own songs.
Upsetting one of the world’s greats didn’t seem to bother Ian Wilder, though.
He played Mr Tambourine Man on repeat to Dylan when they met in America, while he was working for music impresario Harvey Goldsmith.
“He had some serious nerve to pull that stunt.
“Anyone else would have been shot.
“It makes me laugh when I think about it. Only Ian would do that,” remembers Goldsmith, 62, who has paid tribute to his friend and colleague, who worked as his accountant for more than 30 years.
The man behind Live Aid who has managed some of the biggest stars in the music business credits Wilder with rescuing his business.
“When he came in we were in a mess. Ian worked absolute wonders, he was a brilliant accountant and we became very close friends.
“He was a massive character in the office and he loved the music business.
“He wanted me to introduce him to everyone.
“We travelled around the world. We met Bob Dylan, and Pavarotti, and I have Ian to thank for sealing the deal with Shirley Bassey.
“He had so many sides to him, sometimes I used to think he was mad but what I will say is that Londoners should be grateful for what he did for them and this city.”

‘Brilliant, witty Ian had a vision for a better West End. He’s sadly missed’

Councillor Ian Wilder is remembered by those who witnessed his work for Westminster

I WAS one of Ian’s opponents at the local elections in 2002 and 2006 and a friend across the great political divide. Well, perhaps not so great in the West End, in view of all the work we did together.
Ian left school at 16 and was articled to one of his uncles as an accountant. He wanted to become an aeronautical engineer but was told that Jewish boys didn’t become aeronautical engineers, they became accountants – something I think he always regretted. He went on to found Wilder Coe which grew to become one of the best-known accountancy firms in the West End. He left to work with Harvey Goldsmith and became the agent for some of the country’s top personalities in the music industry.
Another “career” as a councillor for Baker Street began in 1994 and swapped to the West End in 2002. As many readers will know, he developed a passion for issues surrounding the late-night leisure industry and its effects on the West End. Many of us had been battling the council over the very large increase in late-night liquor licences and planning consents and had some success in getting policy changes especially after Simon Milton became leader – the latter partly due to Ian’s support.
Ian’s interest might have seemed rather narrow to some. In fact, it was borne out of two wider commitments. First, his passionate sense of justice and injustice and care for the vulnerable – meeting residents whose lives were blighted by sleepless nights due to noise, drug dealing and the general state of mayhem in parts of the West End. Second, his vision for a different sort of city centre with more residents and hotels based on the importance of the West End for the nation’s economy. He did not believe in the possible when the impossible could be achieved. His plans were grand and visionary whether for a revived Leicester Square or a monorail in Oxford Street, or, indeed, the magnificent Formula 1 event he organised in Regent Street with his friend Harvey Goldsmith.
The situation Ian sought to remedy was summed up in this extraordinary statement by the Inspector to Westminster’s Unitary Development Plan: “That there is a clear and present problem of public order and street violence in and around the designated Stress Areas can scarcely be doubted. This was most evident in Leicester Square, where the numbers and demeanour of people present almost amounted to a situation of mob rule. Even earlier in the evening… at the Tottenham Court-Charing Cross Road intersection, the behaviour of individuals bordered on the terrifying… it is implicitly the purpose of planning policy to enhance the quality of urban life and not merely to ensure that the status quo is maintained. This is especially true of conservation areas, whose extent largely covers the West End Stress Area.”
I was with Ian on the many West End visits he organised for his own colleagues and senior officers trying to show the West End as it was after midnight. Ian produced what became a famous video – “The Gradual Death of Self Respect” – a result of hundreds of hours of early morning filming. It was a unique project and a demon­stration of Ian’s commitment to a better society. He was a truth teller and was unafraid whether confronting the police or his own party or major commercial interests on sometimes uncomfortable issues he brought to light. He was not bound by religious, class, political, tribal and other loyalties, hence his ability to make friends in all sorts of places.
He was held in affection by all who knew him – even if he did ring some of us up at 2am demanding our immediate presence in Leicester Square! His interests went well beyond the West End, whether global economics, the rise of China or tech­no­logy, which he used to promote a wi-fi system to help record and reduce noise nuisance as a way of serving people. And who can forget his rendition of House of the Rising Sun at the Soho Festival or indeed his love of duck confit!
Ian was a man of many parts – brilliant, witty, deeply emotional, at times frustrating, immensely hard working (I have hundreds of his emails), tolerant, and, above all, as a councillor, committed to trying to improve the quality of life in our city centre. He is survived by his sister, son and daughter, and his wife Dora who cared for him during his long and final battle. I am sure all those who knew Ian wish them all long life. He will be sadly missed by many people.
* David Bieda is chairman of the Dean Street Residents Association

‘A brave campaigner’ Councillor’s tribute

THE West End will be lucky to find another councillor like Ian Wilder. He was a politician of rare integrity who was passionate about the places and the people he represented. Nothing was too much trouble for him if he could make their lives better.
Because his grandfather had come to Soho as an immigrant tailor he thought it was his destiny to represent the West End and to help a new generation of people who had come to live there just like the old man. He would do anything to improve the life of the underdog, but he also made it his business to know people in powerful places and to hold them to account.
He knew the police, he knew restaurateurs and licensees, property tycoons and lawyers.
He was particularly effective because he had founded and run his own accountancy business. You couldn’t pull the wool over Ian’s eyes. Of course, that made him infuriating to some people, but it also made him great champion.
In the council he had friends on both sides of the chamber. But Ian was not just an effective politician, he was a true friend, a devoted father and a loyal husband. One of the reasons he chose to have his cancer treatment in Houston rather than Britain was because he knew his American wife, Dora, would have a support system over there.
It meant we in the West End had to keep up by phone and email, but keep up he did with all the issues that interested him, offering his support, his contacts and his often radical views, and all for the benefit of the residents who had voted for him. Ian was as funny as he was eccentric. Everyone remembers his speeches in the Council House deploring the bad behaviour of West End clubbers in biblical language. They brought the house down. Then there was his way of arriving, usually late, to a meeting wearing full motorbike leathers and crash helmet and walking in looking around bemused as if he did not understand what everyone was staring at.
His legendary night-time forays into the darker corners of the West End at night, making a video of drunkenness and violence which could be used as evidence in the courts, took a lot of courage. He was brave too in his illness. Though we talked every week and sometimes every day, he would never admit to me how serious it was. He managed to persuade me we would all see him again, so the news of his passing is devastating.
Most people describe politics as the art of the possible. To Ian, only the impossible was worth doing and he sometimes achieved it. The West End has so many reasons to be grateful to him.
* Glenys Roberts is a West End ward councillor

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IAN Wilder never stopped being the champion of the West End and the people of his ward. He extolled and promoted endlessly and developed great bonds between his friends here in Houston, Texas and those in Westminster.
Though his disease was cruel, he never stopped working and thinking and plotting. We watched in awe as he wielded telephone and internet to fulfill his duties and to persuade others to follow his vision for a better society. We likened him to a "force of nature", as his spirit was indomitable throughout debilitating medical treatment.
Ian impacted everyone he met with his passionate grasp of history, his belief that individuals can change the world, and his insistence that we follow him in trying. His humor and wit and profound sense of justice seemed particularly British to us, and engendered a great affection from here across the Atlantic to all of you. We mourn his passing as that of an exceptional human being, a mutual friend, and devoted public servant. As Glenys Roberts so truly observed, "To Ian,only the impossible was worth doing and he sometimes achieved it." It's a torch we can only aspire to pick up, but as Ian would
say, "we must!".
S. Fryer


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