April 14, 2018. Toddington.

'A Celebration of John Cross and his life of service'


Some thirty people came together from as far away as Sweden and Germany, the distant coast of Kent, the bottom of Cornwall, and the far side of Norfolk to remember and celebrate the life and career of John Cross, the former Director of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust, who died in 2017.


Current Director Richard Rollinson opened the event by speaking of John's contribution to PETT and the field, and articulated with passionate care the underlying foundations for his work and the depths involved in living and working with children with deep and complex needs.


John was born in 1931, and his early life and the route by which he came into therapeutic work with children and young people,  and the contributions he made though his life of service (as founding principal of New Barns, in his involvement from the earliest days of the Association of Workers for Maladjusted Children (now SEBDA), in his role as P.E.T.T. representative on the Council of Young Minds, and much more),  was conveyed on video by John's sister Cynthia Cross, with additional insights from his older sister Sybil Wheeler.


John's biographer Charles Sharpe spoke of the six years of meetings and recorded interviews with John which had emerged from their meeting on the Child Care History Network's Steering Group and then Board, and what he had learned, not least about John's affinity with cats; and asked for further thoughts and memories for the book which is planned to appear in May.


Longest-standing PETT Trustee Robert Hinshelwood described his earliest meeting with John Cross and John's mentor David Wills at the Cumberland Lodge conference organised jointly by PETT and the young Association of Therapeutic Communities in 1978, and his sense of John and planned environment therapy since.


A brilliant lunch led naturally into the "rich feed" of a discussion about John Cross's time and New Barns initiated by Rich Rollinson with PETT Trustee Cate Davidson, an emotionally rich discussion involving the whole room.


Dorothy and Roland of the Cheltenham Meeting of the Society of Friends reflected on John's contribution as a Quaker and member of the Cheltenham Meeting, and having spoken of John, asked for thoughts and contributions as they prepare an entry for John for inclusion in the Yearly Meeting's  'Testimonies to the Grace of God in Lives' ("A testimony should radiate the Grace of God as shown in the life of the Friend who has passed from this world. It differs from an obituary account of achievements, yet a few milestones in the life of the deceased will serve to illuminate the spiritual gifts bestowed.").


Andy Bloor then read former SEBDA Chair Joan Pritchard's appreciation of John, and spoke of his own associations with John in SEBDA.


The day ended, as John would have wished, with much remembering and talk, and the famous PETT rich home-made cakes. Charles Sharpe promised his book would be available in May, with proceeds to help support the work of the Trust.


Sybil's open arms set the tone for a memorable day.



Cynthia's warmth welcomed the group into John's story.




Rich led the lively and thoughtful day of memory and discussion.