Tributes to well-known community activist Cllr Graham Downing CBE

Graham Downing with Dame Janet Trotter at Payne Green

Well-known community activist Graham Downing CBE has died.

Awarded his honour for his commitment to the Royal British Legion, Mr Downing had organised the annual Poppy Appeal collections in Asda at Longwell Green for more than 20 years. He was also a local councillor and involved in many initiatives, including Oldland Community Speedwatch Group.

He was the instigator of the Payne Green Memorial Garden and a founder member of Banjo Island Community & Sports Association (now The Batch).

He had been in poor health for some time and passed peacefully away in his armchair while watching television last Wednesday afternoon.

This week Ken Gibson, president of the Bitton & Oldland branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “Graham Downing served for many years in the British Army with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. On his retirement he joined the Royal British Legion of which he became the national chairman for which service he was appointed CBE.

On speedwatch duty at Craven Way

“In retirement he then joined our branch and as treasurer and Poppy Appeal organiser he assembled a large team of volunteers raising around £25,000 each year, much of which flowed in through the poppy table at Asda in Longwell Green which was manned 12 hours a day for 16 days each November.

“Graham’s contribution will be hard to match but we are determined come November not to let him down. Meanwhile on behalf of all Graham’s Legion friends, we send our sympathy to Nancy and the family at this sad time.”

In 2017 the Asda store was presented with an award to recognise the huge amount collected for the Poppy Appeal over the years.

Graham Downing was elected to Oldland Parish Council in May 2003 and served as chairman in May 2009, 2010 and 2011. He served on all committees and was a keen supporter of youth activities and the instigator of youth projects Indy Youth and Youth Academy.

He was a key member of the Priority Neighbourhood Group as well as an active member of the Safer & Stronger initiatives (now known as Community Engagement Forums).

On behalf of the council clerk Victoria Hicks said: “He was a dedicated community activist with a keen sense of social justice and empathy. He worked tirelessly to develop the role of the parish council in a non-political way to better the world in which we live.

“He was a gentleman but had a will of steel. He was direct and forthright with a kind heart and a wicked sense of humour.”