Brian Self. A tribute at his funeral

17th January 2014

By Bertil Wedin

I would like to thank Brian Self’s partner, Leonie Brittain, for her kindness in asking me to deliver a tribute at his funeral.

Brian Self 2
Brian Self

When Brian Self and his wife, Elke Sander-Self, came to live in Northern Cyprus, this country was known by many of its inhabitants on the island and by admirers internationally as “the Last Paradise on Earth”.

It was an exceptionally idyllic and picturesque part of the world. The pastoral views of some areas reminded one of schoolbook illustrations of the Holy Land with sheep grazing among both olive and palm trees.

This Cyprus had great rural charm, wonderfully mixed with the enchantment of buildings and other monuments from the island’s exciting past.

This land was also characterised by kindness, helpfulness and good manners, qualities that had become rare in many other parts of the world.

Many of the foreigners, who had settled here, had wished to flee the ills of the modern world and now hoped to enjoy peace, and decent and cultured company.

Northern Cyprus had many art exhibitions and classical music concerts.

So Brian and Elke felt comfortable here.

Brian, who was born in Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent, and Elke, a German lady, soon noticed some rather unusual signs of British-German friendship. Several married couples in northern Cyprus were mixed British-German, like their own.

And in Karmi lived a serving Air Chief Marshal of the British Royal Air Force next door to one of the top commanders of the modern German Air Force.

Brian Self takes TFR members to Famagusta
Brian Self takes TFR members to Famagusta

To give us all the opportunity to enjoy the company of different nationalities, Brian Self was a key power behind the formation of The Foreign Residents’ Society, a society that, for some legal reason, is not allowed to include the word “society” in its name.

Known as the TFR, the society developed into an effective interest group as well as a powerful organiser of cheerful and meaningful social and cultural events, and exploratory journeys to other lands.

Brian Self was a good explorer and observer. He had a good eye for detail, and focussed on human feelings, and how such things as freedom, oppression, wealth, poverty, frustration, emotional satisfaction and so on influenced art, poetry, music, architecture and behaviour.

When he returned from his visits to Berlin he reported in private conversation and in his newspaper articles not just what artists in the German capital produced but also why. And he reported on how the fall of the Berlin Wall had changed cultural creation.

For a year or so, a group of academics and intellectuals from different countries had frequent meetings in the Girne area to discuss such matters, and Brian was invited, of course, but this activity stopped for an environmental reason. It became increasingly difficult to find restaurants that did not make conversation impossible with noisy music.

Picture by Brian Self
Picture by Brian Self

Noisy music from discos and restaurants had become a threat to a good and healthy environment, and to our freedom to have conversations with one another. Brian opposed this sonic bullying in his newspaper columns for Cyprus Today, and later for the Cyprus Observer. He did so also as a commentator generally, including the times when I interviewed him for my radio programme, Magazine North.

As an architect Brian also criticised the way certain houses were being built. Modern architecture simply did not easily harmonise with anything beautiful. Computerisation had created a soulless robot architecture.

In Cyprus, houses should be built “organically”, Brian argued, the way houses had been built in the past – bit by bit. His own home in Lapta had been built in such a way from just ruins.

Enormous physical and cultural damage was done to this land during the so-called boom years. Brian Self always opposed the destruction and defended the good environment.

He had created a wonderful home. He wrote interesting articles for two of our newspapers. He compiled some of his essays in a delightful and interesting book. He appeared on radio in what was known as a thinking man’s programme. He organised important events. And he intensified his career as an artist with boldly painted pictures that became widely admired.

He was a thoroughly cultured and civilised man who defended and preserved much of the wonderful values and qualities that made this land known as “the Last Paradise on Earth”.

I am sure that much of Brian Self will live on here in Cyprus, in the environment generally, among the trees that are left, and among the surviving birds, and in the village of Lapta and the town of Girne, and in the homes of art lovers. He has a place in Cyprus’s history, and we who are here and many more will now miss him enormously but always remember him with great fondness and affection.

To read other tributes to Brian Self, click on the following links:

The Foreign Residents in memory of Brian Selfclick here

A very personal tribute to Brian Selfclick here