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May 21st 2003 - Daily Mirror, UK Print E-mail
By Ros Wynne-Jones

 

FOR a man who doesn't believe in charity, Pink Floyd legend Dave Gilmour has just been extraordinarily generous.

The 57-year-old rock star has sold his £3.6 million Georgian mansion in London - and given all the money to a charity for the homeless.

"It seemed obscene of us to be rattling around in such a large home when others had nowhere to live," Gilmour says, speaking exclusively to the Mirror.

He and his wife Polly, 37, came up with the idea together of selling the four-storey house in Little Venice for charity, but he admits he had some doubts about the plan.

"I'd had the house 20 years," he says. "It took me a long time to persuade myself to sell it, but Polly said: 'You don't bloody need it, it's too big, it's a bloody great mausoleum'."

So, he sold the house to Earl Spencer and, true to his word, handed over the cash to Crisis, the charity he has supported for years.

Under plans unveiled yesterday, the money will go towards a radical solution to homelessness pioneered in New York - an urban village in the heart of London.

It seems an appropriate gesture for the guitarist of a band that began life as the Architectural Abdabs. "It's an inspiring idea," he says.

"Instead of putting people in hostels, this scheme supports them living on their own - and yet it's half as expensive as a hostel bed."

He looks at his guitarist's hands. "The money I've given is only a jump-start," he says. "It would be lovely to persuade a few more in my lucky position to do the same thing."

Well-spoken and well-dressed, Gilmour is more Our Man In Havana than old rocker. He would happily pay more tax to help the less well-off and, despite this huge donation, doesn't really believe in charity.

"The Government should be building these schemes, but they don't. That's why we all have to help," he says with a shrug in the Crisis office, near London's Liverpool Street.

He became interested in the New York project after seeing a film about it. At the Times Square Hotel, corporate donors provide jobs and training on site. It is a step towards reintegrating the homeless - essential here, where a Crisis survey found that thousands of people live in "temporary shelters" for more than ten years.

Crisis is already looking for a site where 200 homeless people will live alongside 200 low-paid key workers - such as nurses - who struggle to afford to live in London where they are desperately needed to work.

Gilmour, the 465th richest person in Britain, is hoping his symbolic gesture of selling a home to give a home will inspire wealthy Britons as Crisis needs another £10million to get the village up and running.

He says: "I have a bug-bear that there's a lot of conscience-salving goes on with putting on charitable events as vanity projects. Why can't they just write out a cheque?"

Polly, he admits, was influential in his own decision to donate the money. "Her mother is half-Chinese," he says. "When my mother-in-law was a child she was brought here and dumped in a Barnados home. At 16, she ran off back to China to join the Red Army. Her incredible story influences the way you look at things."

Gilmour is worth £75million and is estimated to make £10million-a-year from continuing sales of Pink Floyd albums like Dark Side of the Moon. But, he doesn't take anything for granted and will make sure his eight children in turn - the youngest is less than one - know why part of their inheritance was given away.

As he says, they are a very lucky family. "I've still got four houses," he explains, almost apologetically. "I've got one in Greece; one I bought in France for my parents to stay in; a house in the country in Sussex, and I've now bought a tiny mews house in London instead of that huge great house by the canal."

And with that, the contented quiet man of loud rock is off to his new, smaller London home. "Having the nice little place that we now have is actually much better."

 
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