Remembering Simon Baker

Friends and comrades of Simon Baker write about his life's work – and the lessons that can be learned from his commitment to a better world.

Simon Baker, who has died aged 45, was a socialist campaigner and videographer who produced films that touched people across the UK.

Remember the viral video with the guy in the Fred Perry polo shirt saying he had more in common with a Jamaican brickie than with Jacob Rees-Mogg? That was Simon’s work. Or how about the Labour Party’s Our Town film that showed that it is possible for a party political broadcast to move people to tears? Simon’s doing.

But while millions have seen his work, far fewer know his name. That is not because Simon was shy or reluctant to put himself forward. It is because his interest was not personal praise and glory. He used his tremendous ability to give voice to others.

His motivation was to provide a megaphone for working class people to project their views to millions. In this digital age, that megaphone was a social media account and a punchy video that would move all those who saw it. His Labour Voices project epitomised this philosophy: the simple idea of having a grassroots Labour member deliver a monologue to camera while walking through their home streets. Filmed and edited with style and professionalism, it made for compelling viewing.

Simon was a co-founder of EL4C (Ealing Labour 4 Corbyn), a local group with a massively outsized social media presence, which produced viral content and videos in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. Feisty and witty, EL4C was an integral part of the online pro-Corbyn community that did so much to transform the dynamic of the 2017 general election. Recall the clip of Peter Kirkham, a former senior policeman, savaging the government over police cuts after the London Bridge terrorist atrocity, which surged to more than 12 million views and helped to turn the debate over security on its head? Simon put that out.

Simon’s videos drew on his technical skill and trained eye as an established filmmaker. Just this year his second feature film, the football-based 90 Minutes, received a cinema release. Produced by the former England defender Rio Ferdinand, who makes a cameo appearance, the film shows that Simon’s interest in the grassroots was not limited to the political—it is grassroots football that is the star of the film, and the gritty life struggles of those who play on Hackney Marshes on a Sunday its subject.

His directorial debut, Night Bus, an observational drama released in 2014, was similarly concerned with the stories of ordinary people, with snapshots from their lives captured on a regular London night bus journey.

Simon was always about people. He cared deeply about politics, but his fundamental belief and passion was in the people that he worked with and the people that he supported. This was most true about his partner and his young son, whom he adored.

Simon made an enormous contribution to the labour movement. Correctly described as ‘an unsung hero’ by Jeremy Corbyn, he leaves behind a brilliant body of work to enjoy and to learn from—and an example of the spirit in which we must continue the fight for the better world that he believed to be possible.

Liam Young, Alex Nunns, Ben Sellers, Sarah Henney and Lewis Cox