Albery, Nicholas 1948-2001
ALBERY, Nicholas 1948-2001
PERSONAL: Born July 28, 1948, in St. Albans, England; died from injuries suffered in a car accident June 3, 2001, in Prices Risborough, Buckinghamshire, England; son of Sir Donald and Heather (Boys) Albery; married Josefine Speyer May 19, 1991; children: Merlyn. Education: Attended St. John's College, Oxford University; Institute of Psychotherapy and Social Studies, diploma, 1986.
CAREER: Poet, social activist, and nonfiction author. Formerly worked for BIT. Institute for Social Inventions, founder and principal officer; Natural Death Center, London, England, director, beginning 1991; Council for Posterity, general secretary, beginning 1993; Global Ideas Bank, Internet editor, 1994; Poetry Marathon, England, director, beginning 1995; Social Inventors, London, England, chair, beginning 1985; Social Inventions Journal, editor.
AWARDS, HONORS: Schumacher Society Award, 1994.
(With Mark Kinzley) How to Save the World: A Fourth World Guide to the Politics of Scale, Turnstone Press (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England), 1984.
The Book of Visions: An Encyclopaedia of Social Innovations, 1993.
Poem for the Day: 366 Poems Worth Learning by Heart, Steerforth Press (South Royalton, VT), 1996.
World's Best Ideas, Institute of Social Inventions, (London, England), 1998.
Time out Book of Country Walks, Penguin Books (London, England), 1997.
SIDELIGHTS: Nicholas Albery was born into a life of riches, as his father, Sir Donald, was head of what has been referred to as a dynasty of British theaters. Albery himself won a scholarship at age sixteen to the prestigious St. John's College, Oxford. However, after two years at St. John's and under the influence of the counter-culture of the 1960s, Albery dropped out of school and traveled to the United States, eventually settling in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco and taking on the hippie culture of the day.
In 1968 Albery returned to Great Britain and went to work for BIT, the alternative information arm of the newspaper International Times, which dealt with issues important to the counter-culture movement of that time. It was through his association with BIT that Albery met Nicholas Saunders, who would become, according to Albery's obituary in the London Times, his "mentor and closest friend," eventually helping Albery to funnel his ideas into practical applications, as they shared "ideas of how communities could take control of their own lives."
Albery met his wife, Josefine, an art student from Berlin, in 1972. Several years into their relationship, they took over a row of townhouses that they shared with a group of international artists. The homes were scheduled to be demolished and then replaced with new commercial buildings; but Albery and his group fought to keep the row houses intact. They refused to be evicted and renamed this section of Notting Hill the Free Republic of Frestonia, declaring themselves independent of the United Kingdom. They won their fight against the bulldozers, and Albery, the following year in 1978, ran as a candidate in the Ecology Party, winning a total of eight hundred votes.
"The collaboration of the two Nicholases, Saunders and Albery," as stated in Albery's obituary in the London Independent, "became the pivot for a series of social innovations for the next quarter-century; Albery the socially involved ideas man who stayed up all hours with the computer . . . Saunders, the entrepreneur risk-taker with the Midas touch." One of the main innovations Albery and Saunders were involved with was the Institute for Social Inventions, founded in 1985. It was through the Institute that Albery established several other organizations, including the Natural Death Centre (through which inexpensive family-based funerals could be arranged), the Global Ideas Bank (an Internet site open to suggestions that could positively affect society), the International Poetry Challenge Day (challenging students to memorize a poem in order to earn money for charitable organizations), and the Apprentice-Master Alliance (which links students with small businesses). In summing up Albery, the Independent writer stated, "The breadth of his thinking and the scope of his output was extraordinary."
Albery was also involved in editing and writing several books during his lifetime. The first was The Encyclopaedia of Social Inventions, which contains ideas that Arnold Evans, in the Times Educational Supplement, described as ranging "from the eminently sensible to the screwball." Evans further commented that some of the suggestions are "destined to change the way we live," while others "(let's hope)" are "doomed never to get off the back of the envelope."
Albery's 1994 Poem for the Day: 366 Poems Worth Learning by Heart is set up as a diary might be, with notes on the selected poem of the day as well as notes about the poet, listings of literary birthdays, and the poem itself, which might be written by Blake, Tennyson, Yeats, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, or lesser-known poets such as Adam Thorpe, Vikram Seth, Michael Young, or Sasha Moorsom. Tony O'Sullivan, writing for the School Librarian, called it "a versatile book for sure—at home equally on a teacher's desk or on a bedside table."
The final book published before Albery's death was World's Best Ideas, for which he acted as coeditor. This book is not "Utopian," wrote Brian Eno in a review for Whole Earth, but rather "it offers much more pragmatic, much more incrementalist strategy." Eno added, "It's a work of research—scanning the world for signs of more successful and human ways of doing things."
In the London Times obituary, Albery was described as "one of the few luminaries of the 1960s counterculture whose sense of mission to improve the world carried over into the ensuing decades." The Times writer also stated that the way in which Albery died was ironic. "It is an unhappy irony that, having so long campaigned for walking, cycling and more society-friendly alternatives to the car, and never having learnt to drive," that he should end up being "killed in a car accident." Albery died on June 3, 2001.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
New Scientist, July 5, 1997, review of The Time out Book of Country Walks, p. 45.
School Librarian, May, 1995, Tony O'Sullivan, review of Poem for the Day, p. 73.
Times Educational Supplement, June 28, 1991, Arnold Evans, review of The Encyclopaedia of Social Inventions, p. 31.
Whole Earth, spring, 1999, Brian Eno, review of World's Best Ideas, p. 58.
Independent (London, England), June 18, 2002, "Nicholas Albery."
Times (London, England), June 7, 2001, "Nicholas Albery, Leading Light of Alternative London in the Sixties, Who Spent the Next Three Decades Trying to Make Life—and Death—Better for Everyone."*