Obituary: ‘Friend magnet’ photographer who opened Hampstead home to radical left dies

PUBLISHED: 08:00 21 February 2015

Catherine Fried

Catherine Fried


A “perspicacious” artist and photographer who threw open her door to London’s radical left in the 1960s and ‘70s has died aged 78.

Catherine Fried, who was born and raised in Hampstead, became a professional artist in her 50s following the death of her husband, the well-respected Austrian-born poet Erich Fried.

Mrs Fried, who lived in Torriano Avenue, Kentish Town for the last 15 years of her life, has been remembered by her daughter as a “friend magnet”.

Petra Fried, 48, of Busby Place, Kentish Town, said: “She was a very intelligent and personable woman and she shone a bright light on whoever she was with.

“She was very focused on her children and if we had problems, she would really listen and be thoughtful but never judgmental.

“It was quite unique.”

Mrs Fried was born in 1936 in Fitzjohn’s Avenue in Hampstead and attended South Hampstead High School.

As a member of the drama society at University College London in Bloomsbury, where she read English, she acted on stage alongside Tom Courtenay, who would go on to star in Doctor Zhivago.

She began the 1960s in Paris, where she worked as an announcer on a French radio station.

Later, she would live in the infamous “Beat Hotel”, where her fellow artistic residents included William S. Burroughs.

On returning to London, she married Mr Fried in 1965, and their home in Dartmouth Road in Kilburn became a hub of the radical left throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s.

With a remarkable ability to often cater for about 15 unexpected liberal guests at the drop of a hat, Mrs Fried was the unflappable hostess who welcomed leading political figures including Rudi Dutschke, Astrid Proll, Danny Cohn-Bendit and Tariq Ali to her home.

So many visitors passed through her home that she developed a special system for managing laundry.

Sheets used by “clean people who only stay one night” went straight back in the airing cupboard without being washed, according to her daughter.

Executive film producer Ms Fried, who helped create popular TV drama Misfits, remembered: “She had chosen to marry a leading radical who threw their big yellow front door open to anyone who wanted to come in, sit around their kitchen table and talk.”

In 2008, Mrs Fried recounted her years among the artistic and political milieu in a memoir The Long and Short of It - so called because at 6ft tall, she towered over her late husband.

Following her husband’s death in 1988 she became focused on art.

She worked professionally as a photographer and at the age of 58, she graduated with a degree in sculpture from Central St Martins.

Surrounded by her many friends and family, she died peacefully on February 4 after suffering from fibrosis of the lungs for 11 years.

More than 300 people will attend a funeral ceremony at Cecil Sharp House in Primrose Hill on Monday.

She is survived by three children, three stepchildren, ten grandchildren, a step-great-grand child and a great many friends.

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