Memorials to ‘extraordinary character’

September 02 2017
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CHRIS Briton’s family are planning a series of memorials to the former mayor, pantomime Dame and arts, wildlife and cake lover who died earlier this year.

The memorials will celebrate Chris’ life and his belief in the power of the arts to improve people’s lives.

Central to the tributes will be the 641 award, so-called because Chris was the 641st Mayor of Wells.

Students will be invited to submit a portfolio of work, and the winning entrant will be able to choose materials from Paisley & Pilgrim, the new art shop being set up in Wells by fine art restorer Angela Geary.

“Dad was a practising artist and he always had a huge love of the arts,” said Chris’ daughter Molly, who herself trained as a stonemason and has an art studio in Heritage Courtyard.

“He was a real believer that free art for the public could be a force for good.”

With this in mind, 641 will be set up as a charity to raise funds to commission artists to produce a public artwork for the city. Molly would like to see a new piece every two years, if possible, in consultation with the city council.

One of the fundraising ideas is to hold an annual Great Briton Bake Off competition. A memorial cake contest was first staged at Chris’ funeral in June when £1,700 was raised for Somerset Wildlife Trust in donations and competition entry fees.

“It was always a joke that Dad was not a good cook but once he retired he became interested in learning to bake,” said Molly.

“He did become quite good at baking cakes and scones, and he was Mum’s marmalade assistant.”

Chris wrote, directed and appeared in pantomimes at Wells Little Theatre, and was chairman of the theatre society. He was the first Green Party member to become Mayor of Wells, and was a city councillor for the St Cuthbert’s ward when he died of cancer aged 65, leaving his wife, Sarah, and three children.

In another memorial to him, the city council will buy a native species tree to be planted at the entrance to Durkheim Drive, subject to county council approval. A stone plaque with lettering carved by Molly will be placed by the tree.

“Chris Briton was held in very high regard by the city council and will always be remembered, not least for his comments on Tree Works Applications at planning committee meetings,” said a council spokesperson.

“This seems a very fitting memorial for the council to establish in his memory, compatible with his and his family’s wishes.”

Chris’ Mayor’s Diary columns and doodles have been collected in a book, An Ordinary Man, that is available for a donation from familybriton@gmail.com

“He was a natural born performer, a larger than life character, but really enjoyed the simple things in life,” said Molly.

“He was an avid fan of washing up. One of my favourite memories of him was washing up while learning his lines for the pantomime.

“He was very much about the simple and ordinary in life, although he was an extraordinary character.”