By Max Waller
If Stroud had its very own member of The Beatles then it surely would have been my father, Peter Waller.
Of course, I’m biased because he’s my dad and it’s just possible I might have a tendency to over-romanticise my characterisation of him. But when I think back on his generation growing up at a time of great social and cultural change in the 1960’s I’ve come to realise that he was like a composite of all four members of that amazing band from Liverpool.
He had the magical mystery tour like mind of John Lennon including his stubborn individuality, the whimsy and nostalgia of Paul McCartney harking back to old music hall days, the spiritual seeking Eastern nature of George Harrison and the down to earth no nonsense character of Ringo.
As a South London pioneer making his way from Streatham to Stroud in the early 1970s, Peter Waller played his own part in the changing shape of the town through the subsequent decades both as an activist, entrepreneur and as an architect/creative thinker. Having bought The Old Convent in Beeches Green after seeing a listing for it in the newspaper, Peter and his business partner Keith Morgan converted the old gothic revival building into a vibrant working community for free spirits including artists, entrepreneurs and business people that informed an entire new chapter in Stroud’s development as a creative location.
Preventing the unwelcome intrusion of a ring road in the town centre which would have had a detrimental effect on the town’s character, my father, with a group of other activists at the time, managed to ensure that the proposal was rejected, continuing the town’s long-standing tradition of protest, especially regarding unwanted developments. As part of the campaign Peter published with author Claire Toy The Plotter Of Gloucester, a powerful allegory about town planners and a magical goat. It was widely acclaimed at the time and demonstrated my father’s creative approach to challenging bureaucratic authority.
The acquisition of A & A taxis in the 90s by Peter and his business partner offered my dad the opportunity to adapt the London Underground sign but for taxis, further linking the Stroud London connection through design. Later, he developed a revolutionary scheme which involved housing the Woodchester Orpheus replica mosaic in the centre of the town as part of the Stroud District Millennium Project. Although it never quite found the moment to be fully realised, nevertheless, it was an impressive example of how my father was always looking at interesting and symbolic ways to enhance the narrative legacy of the town.
Aside from all the various town schemes, my father was also a brilliant architect who managed to design some beautiful projects across Stroud and Gloucestershire, including one that was shortlisted in the Grand Designs best eco-house category. A combination of American prairie-style with Edwardian influence of Lutyens and Voysey, my dad managed to find a fusion of styles that felt harmonious to the local environment, always respecting what he called the off-site factors. But aside from all his many achievements as an architect and creative thinker, it was as a friend and counsel to many in the town that he will be most fondly remembered.
A coffee drinker par excellence, my father was a strict practitioner of the early morning groove in local cafes where he would network, argue, console and laugh with friends and colleagues. What he most loved about Stroud was the eclectic mix of people and the loose-fit, maverick sense of creative independence. He was a great believer that layabouts would change the world. And although he was far more industrious than he would have us believe; he knew that the secret to ‘saving everyone’ was by sharing in this precious human life together over a cup of coffee.