Alan Wakeman, who has died aged 79, was a leading light in the Gay Liberation Front during the 1970s, a well-known character in Soho, London, and a writer who was responsible for producing one of the first vegan cookbooks.
Born in Ramsgate, Kent, to Maurice, a shopkeeper, and Lillian (nee Fenlon), who worked on secret projects in Surrey during the second world war, Alan went to Purley grammar school, near Croydon. He did two years’ training in an architectural practice after national service, then travelled in France for three years before returning to the UK to teach English as a foreign language. He wrote a course, called English Fast, designed to be especially friendly to youngsters, and it sold well in the late 60s and early 70s.
By then Alan had become a much more rebellious spirit. His hippyish appearance became one of the sights of Piccadilly, London, and his brilliant green trousers and bright yellow sweaters delighted the tourists. He became a key figure in the GLF’s spectacular eruption into the self-doubting gay world of the 1970s and, with lifelong friends such as Aubrey Walter, co-founder of the GLF in London, and Aubrey’s partner David Fernbach, he travelled the country taking the front’s ideals to student unions. He created the first recorded GLF song, A Gay Song (1972), and in 1974 helped to found the theatre troupe Gay Sweatshop, writing a play, Ships, for them.
Alan was a vegan from the 70s, and to encourage others he wrote The Vegan Cookbook with Gordon Baskerville, published by Faber and Faber in 1986 as one of the first such books in its field. It remains a staple volume on the bookshelves of many vegans and vegetarians. He also wrote an English translation of The Little Prince children’s story in 1995, a version admired by the family of the book’s French author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Shortly before his death, Alan produced an autobiography, Fragments of Joy and Sorrow, which was published in June this year.
Alan moved to Soho in his early 30s and spent the rest of his life there, living in the Monico buildings behind the lights of Piccadilly Circus. He was well known for his participation in Save Soho campaigns over nearly half a century, and only a few months ago was marching alongside the residents of Chinatown against threatened closure of their only clinic.
Alan is survived by his brother, Peter, and by four nieces