BAD boy of rock Keith Richards achieved worldwide fame in the Rolling Stones. But his family had another goal – political power in Walthamstow.  Reporter DANIEL BINNS finds out more.

THIS July marks the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones's first ever gig in London.

The band is arguably one of the greatest rock acts of all time, and they continue to sell millions of records.

In the early 1960s Waltham Forest was a regular haunt of the group, as they performed sell-out shows at the venues such as the former EMD cinema theatre in Hoe Street, Walthamstow, and the now-demolished Leyton Baths building in the High Road.

In 2009 lead singer Sir Mick Jagger even spoke out to support the campaign to reopen the Grade II listed ex-multiplex as an entertainment venue.

But the release the following year of 'Life' - the frank autobiography of fellow founding member Keith Richards – revealed that the local connections run far deeper.

Indeed, the 68-year-old guitarist has his family roots firmly planted in Walthamstow.

Both his grandparents and parents lived in the town, with the latter only moving out to escape the bombs which rained down on Waltham Forest during the Blitz.

But, as Richards wryly notes, the decision by his parents, Doris and Bert, to move to Kent instead was arguably not best judged.

“My mother had thought she was going somewhere safe, moving to Dartford from Walthamstow. So she moved us to the Darent Valley. Bomb Alley!” he wrote.

But it was Keith's grandparents who really made their mark on E17.

Richards writes how the couple, Ernie and Eliza Richards, were devout socialists who he says  “more or less created the Walthamstow Labour Party”.

Their party was in its infancy with just two MPs when the couple married in 1900, and they saw the area as ripe for recruiting others to their cause.

Taking on the perhaps surprising mantle of local historian, Keith Richards writes in 'Life' that:  “Walthamstow was fertile Labour territory then. It had taken in a big working-class exodus from the East End of London and a new rail commuter population – the political front line.”

The couple helped grow the local party in size and became Labour councillors in the process. And in 1941 Eliza became mayor of Walthamstow.

Richards writes: “She must have been a piece of work – she became chairman of the housing committee in a borough that had one of the biggest programs of council house expansion in the country.”

Even today distant relatives of Richards can still be found in Walthamstow – and it has remained a Labour stronghold ever since.

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