Ann Wilkinson, 1998
Ann Wilkinson and the History of PDREC and the Respect Festival
For many years, Ann Wilkinson’s name was synonymous with PDREC (formerly Plymouth and District Racial Equality Council). Ann participated in the formation of PDREC in the early 1990s and was a key driving force in the city in tackling racism and discrimination and promoting anti-racism and equality.
As a woman of mixed race in Plymouth, she experienced racism, oppression and prejudice and every day of her life she fought against it. She was passionate about racial justice and stood up and spoke out for the rights of all ethnically diverse citizens.
No-one who met her could ever forget her energy, compassion and tenacity. She would often begin a story by saying ‘let me tell you something’ and go on to narrate in detail her encounters with clients she had helped when they came to Plymouth and who came to PDREC as a place of last resort, all other avenues of support having fallen away. She had an unwavering commitment to fairness and social justice, as an opponent she was awe-inspiring - direct, unflinching and insistent.
She dared to speak truth to power, and she kept on speaking the truth, no matter how uncomfortable that might be. Of course, like all powerful people, she had detractors but even when people disagreed with Ann, they had respect for her and what she stood for.
Ann was a member of PDREC’s Executive Committee between 1996-1999, chair between 1997-1999 and co-director between 2007-2015. With her artist friend, Dan Thompson, she came up with the idea of organising the first Respect Festival in Plymouth in 1998 as a way of bringing the diverse communities in the city together to celebrate their commonalities in a safe environment.
The Respect Festival has just celebrated its 24th year in 2022 and, in many ways, symbolises Ann’s long contribution to the city. Ann sadly passed away on 7th October 2020