27 September 1952 - 24 April 2021
By Diane Astin
Nony Ardill, who died on 24 April, was an incredibly impressive woman, and I cannot do justice to her many achievements here. Nony was the policy director at LAG between 2000 and 2005 but I had the pleasure of working with her at North Islington Law Centre from 1992 to 2000. When I joined the Law Centre, Nony had already been working there for 10 years and was part of a scarily competent team of advisers and lawyers who managed the Law Centre as a collective. I shared a room with Nony for many years so I was aware of her abilities and commitment as an immigration and employment adviser. Old colleagues (‘comrades’ we called each other, and not ironically) have reminded me of many of her other activities at the Law Centre: she ran the Women’s Advice Group at the Manor Gardens Centre, organised training on legal rights for women in Holloway Prison, and she worked on the divided families campaign and against the primary purpose rule. She was the chief author of a book about undocumented migrants, Undocumented lives: Britain's unauthorised migrant workers, which used oral histories to tell the migrant workers’ stories. I witnessed what an effective and dedicated adviser she was, and while working at the Law Centre and raising two small children, she also managed to qualify as a solicitor.
But her talent for writing and policy work was obvious. As one of our old comrades put it: ‘Her fluent, crisp and incisive writing style gave a persuasive elegance to everything she wrote.’ It was no surprise that she went on to be an effective policy specialist, first at LAG and then for Age Concern between 2005 and 2009. From 2009 to 2015, she was a senior lawyer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission where she worked on age discrimination and access to justice. In 2016, she was appointed as a legal specialist to the Justice Committee of the House of Commons and her last piece of work there was on the Inquiry into Court and Tribunal Reforms. I know that she was very proud of her work drafting the inquiry report
published in October 2019 shortly after she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Nony’s feminism was central to who she was, but until recently I was unaware that in the 1970s she had been in a feminist rock band, the Stepney Sisters. And I did not know she had appeared on the cover of Spare Rib magazine
playing the guitar, and looking impossibly young. The band recently re-formed and recorded an album of their early material, released in March of this year. She obviously passed on her musical abilities to her children, Anya and Aidan, both of whom play in bands. I did know about her membership of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, of her orienteering activities and her enduring love of gardening. I’m sure that she had many other talents and achievements I know nothing about.
In the days after Nony’s death someone contacted me to express their sympathy, saying that they knew that Nony was a friend of mine. That made me feel very proud: Nony was one of the most talented people I’ve known, and was my friend. She, and her husband Philip, were immensely kind and supportive when I suffered a bereavement while at the Law Centre. Nony introduced me to gardening and helped me plant up my first garden, making sure I understood which plants she considered ‘vulgar’. In the words of another comrade from the Law Centre years: ‘She was just so good at everything, so fair, organised, and good at organising others! So generous, funny and kind and able to think on a deep level whilst also able to cut through the crap.’ We are all going to miss her so much.
Photo credits: top: North Islington Law Centre; bottom: Anita Bradford