Tuesday, 08 May 2018 18:15

“What’s a selfie?” – asked Fred, 94, next birthday

Written by Nick Jones
Fred Jarvis Fred Jarvis
Before Selfies is the title of a collection of photographs taken during the lifetime of Fred Jarvis, Barnet’s oldest and most famous trade union leader.

A selection of his best 100 photographs, brought together in a newly-published brochure, includes shots of World War II bomb damage in Germany, an unparalleled look at life behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s, and behind-the-scenes images of Labour Party leaders.

Mr Jarvis, who will be 94 in September, was general secretary of the National Union of Teachers from 1975 until 1989.

His late wife, Anne Jarvis, who was a teacher in Finchley for 30 years, went on to chair Barnet Council’s education committee for eight years in the 1990s.

Mr Jarvis, who lives in Hadley Road, New Barnet, started taking photographs after winning a camera in a NAAFI raffle in 1947 when he was stationed in Germany, serving as a sergeant with the military government.

He chose the title Before Selfies because it was not until two years ago that he first encountered the selfie phenomenon.

“I was at a big Grosvenor House bash, and I was approached by a group of young teachers, waving their mobile phones, all saying they wanted to take a selfie with me.

“In all innocence I asked, ‘What on earth are selfies?’ I told them that over 50 years I had taken thousands of photographs, but never once had I taken one of myself!”

The brochure featuring his collection costs £5 and the proceeds are going to the National Youth Theatre, Music for Youth and the North London Hospice.

As a boy Mr Jarvis was evacuated with his parents from West Ham to Wallasey and after finishing school at 16 in 1941, he worked at the Wallasey Town Hall before being enlisted in the Artillery in 1943.

He was in the reinforcements sent across the English Channel in D-Day plus four and moved north shelling Caen, then on to Belgium, more shelling of Bremen, and ended up with the military government in Germany near the border with Denmark.

“I was a sergeant aged 21 when I won the camera and immediately started taking photographs of bomb damage in Germany.”

His next once-in-a-lifetime assignment was a trip to the Soviet Union in 1954 leading a delegation from the National Union of Students.

He had been elected NUS President in 1952 and the trip behind the Iron Curtain again gave him the chance to take photographs of everyday life.

“In the 1950s access to the USSR was very limited so very few contemporary pictures were around. Some of my best shots were of students in Leningrad (the picture on the brochure’s front cover) and some of life in Armenia.

“When I got back home my pictures filled a page in The Times Educational Supplement, so you can see how special they were.”  

On finishing his term as NUS President, Mr Jarvis joined the National Union of Teachers as campaigns officer in 1954, becoming head of press and public relations, then deputy general secretary and finally general secretary in 1975.

After retiring from the NUT, Mr Jarvis worked behind the scenes for the Labour Party.

He was based at the Millbank headquarters in the 1997 general election and the party’s general secretary, Tom Sawyer, agreed he could take photographs of the winning New Labour election machine.

On election night, Mr Jarvis was at able to capture the arrival of Tony Blair at the Royal Festival Hall.

“I had been out on the campaign bus with John Prescott, and it was an unforgettable moment, being there when Neil Kinnock welcomed Blair after his landslide victory.”

Before Selfies costs £5, plus £2 postage and packing.

Contact Fred Jarvis This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 02 08-449-9001; or send a cheque for £7 to 92 Hadley Road, New Barnet, EN5 5QR.

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