Rose Rouse rocks around Harlesden with film-maker Davis Lawley Wakelin
PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 September 2012
‘Local hero’ comes up to visit his two children in Harlesden several times a week
Writer Rose Rouse is on an adventure – not in Cuba, Bali or the Outer Hebrides but in Harlesden where she lives. Every month, she walks and talks with friends and neighbours around busy NW10 and meets people you may have heard of who are living on your doorstep.
Recently as part of her Not On Safari In Harlesden project she walked with local activist and film-maker David Lawley Wakelin.
David Lawley Wakelin – film-maker, protester against the war in Iraq – is a local hero. Depending on your viewpoint, obviously. He managed to find an unguarded back entrance to the Leveson Inquiry, walked in and accused Tony Blair not only of being a war criminal but also of being paid off by the investment bank J. P. Morgan where he is an advisor, on an annual salary of £2.5m.
Blair was rattled: he even felt he had to give a public response where he said he never had that conversation with J. P. Morgan. David was bundled to the ground and arrested. He had his say though.
David comes up to visit his two children in Harlesden several times a week. From Portobello Road. On his bike.
Today we meet at O Tamariz, my favourite Portuguese cafe.
What did his children, 11 and 13, make of his protest? “Well, I think they were a bit embarrassed,” he explains, “but my son must have been a little proud because he took the Guardian with the report about it into school the next day.”
David is speedy. He moves verbally and thought-wise like a bat at dusk. He’s also boyish at 49, has a shock of sandy hair and a passion for his mission to make Blair take responsibility for his actions.
He’s full of regrets about that day. “I should have made a citizen’s arrest on Blair,” he sighs, “and I should have gone back and stood in front of the cameras afterwards. But I was emotionally and mentally exhausted.”
I love it when he admits that he phoned his mother at one point to see if she would approve of his actions. “I realised the night before that Blair was on the next day,” he says, “so I decided to go down there. I didn’t have a ticket for the front door but I quickly realised that there must be another entrance where the participants come in. I went down some stairs, crossed a courtyard, went upstairs and found a door which was completely unguarded.
“For a moment, I lost courage, went downstairs, phoned my mum to see what she thought – she was fully behind me doing it. So I went back up the stairs and into the inquiry.
“I didn’t actually look at Blair because I needed to focus on what I was saying, but I wish I had. I don’t think he can leave home these days without someone accosting him about the war in Iraq. I don’t mean because of me, I just mean that’s how people feel.“
Why did he get so angry about the war in Iraq? “I wasn’t working in 2003,” he says, “and I had time to reflect. When I was 19, I backpacked across all those countries like Iraq and I realised that just would not be possible for my own children.
‘‘That made me incredibly incensed. I also thought early on, before the war had started, that the weapons of mass destruction stuff was all lies. Blair is deluded by his religious beliefs, he’s as deluded as the dictators he denunciates.”
In 2010, David went to Iraq – he wanted to ask ordinary Iraqis if they thought Blair should be indicted as a war criminal. “Ninety per cent agreed that the war was about business, about construction companies and pharmaceutical companies making money,” he says. “It was tough being there for three months, it’s a poor country and people are not very friendly.
‘‘There’s a lot of negative energy, not surprisingly. I felt fearful but I had to challenge that fear and get over it. There are babies being born deformed in Faluja because of the effect of the fall-out from depleted uranium in bombs. In the end, the Iranian channel Press TV bought the film and showed it and I showed it at the Frontline Club off Westbourne Grove.”
I bring the conversation back to Harlesden. Does he use its resources at all? “I used to take my kids to the library in order to research their homework. I once bumped into Louis Theroux in one of the kebab shops. Does that count?”
No, definitely not. We finally leave O Tamariz and it starts to rain. David is towering over me. “You could call me Lord Haw Haw of Harlesden,” he jokes as we wander down Craven Park Road.
When we say goodbye, as David gets back on his bike, he asks me a question. “Do you agree with me?” he asks. “Do you think Blair is a war criminal?” I do. “I think most of the country agrees,” he says.
n Not On Safari In Harlesden can be read at roserouse.wordpress.com