Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Katherine Little in Torquay 2016

Farewell Katherine Little

We are saddened to announce the death of artist, Katherine Little, who was a Hastings’ resident for a couple of decades. Katherine died suddenly in December 2017: it appears that Katherine’s heart stopped due to undiagnosed heart disease – and we hope sincerely that she died peacefully in her sleep, free of suffering, anticipating another day. HOT’s Zelly Restorick writes.

I first met Katherine Little on a Hastings Against War coach trip to London to attend an anti-war rally. After that, during our shared time in Hastings and St Leonards, I would now and again bump into this vibrant woman, who would be either cycling or walking along the seafront and we would stop for a chat. Katherine was one of those people who stood out from the crowd: I remember her bright lipstick, rosy cheeks, the sparkling-in-the-sun glitter that decorated her radiant blue eyes (inspiring me to sprinkle glitter in my hair), her tall stature, beautiful smile and her unique artistic talents.

Although sad for those people who didn’t have a chance to connect with her, I hope she died peacefully in her sleep, anticipating another day.

Although Katherine moved to Torquay, (where she was cremated on 2 February), she spent most of the last two decades of her life in Hastings – and as she had friends here, those closest to her are planning a Memorial Gathering at The White Rock Hotel on the seafront on 10 March from 2pm – 4pm. All friends of Katherine’s are welcome to attend.

If you have any pieces of artwork produced by Katherine, the organisers have asked that you bring it along at 1pm to the hotel, so that the room can be decorated with her unique creativity. Of course, every item will be returned at the end of the afternoon.


Katherine left a personal statement, which was read out at her cremation by her cousin, Hanne Hoeck:

It is in my Wake
My need to Create
and to participate
It is my fate
Not to punchinate
To please my mate,
For I can be full of hate
I should not wait
To Punchinate
As I create
But wait!


HOT’s Erica Smith writes: “Katherine was a painter of lively, textured abstracts and a lovely woman. I knew her from Hastings Arts Forum and as a cyclist. She used to live in London Road in St Leonards and from there, moved temporarily to Bexhill before making her way to the West Country. She was full of life and character  and I always enjoyed talking to her. She was excellent at managing the Arts Fourm bar at private views (not an easy task). She also had a total soft spot for soft toys. I always wondered how she managed to move all her furry friends to Torquay.”


Katherine was the November pin-up in Hastings Arts Forum’s 2010 calendar. Photograph © John Cole

Rachel Lever writes: “I knew Katherine very well. We had beach chalets a few doors apart and we were at the college together – and we all liked to exchange Katherine-isms, not to mention having the best part of my sitting room displaying her work. She had creativity in spades.”

If you knew Katherine and would like to write your own tribute or memories, please use the Comments box below.


An overview of Katherine’s life

Margaret Littlejohn, childhood friend of Katherine, has kindly shared her tribute to Katherine with everyone at HOT:

“Katherine’s father, Kenneth Little, was a Professor of Social Anthropology and later of African Studies at Edinburgh University where I first got to know her, both of us aged about 4, because our fathers were colleagues and our mothers good friends, being a pair of left-wing rebels who did not take kindly to the ‘University wives’ stereotype in a very conservative 1950s Edinburgh. She and her older brother, Jor, were encouraged from an early age by their Danish mother, Birte, to draw and paint and I have vivid memories of Katherine solemnly (if not very successfully) teaching me to draw high heels, houses and faces in the large kitchen of their, to me very posh, Georgian ground floor and basement flat in the New Town in Edinburgh.

“After her parents’ divorce, Katherine moved down to London with her mother and brother, coming to stay occasionally with her father in Edinburgh and with my family, and she maintained a (somewhat grudging) contact with him until his death, going up to look after him at times when he was unwell. Jor later moved to Denmark full-time where he became quite a well-known artist.

Photo from Hanne Hoeck

Photo from Hanne Hoeck

“As a teenager, Katherine stayed for several months with Kenneth and his second wife, a very sophisticated Jamaican woman who claimed she would teach Katherine how to dress, behave “like a lady” and use make-up properly as she saw it. This did not happen! Strikingly good-looking though she was with her bright blue eyes and tall, Juno-esque figure, Katherine always dressed, accessorised and used make-up in an eccentric and original way, mostly made up of tasteful items she found in Charity shops. Her stepmother disapproved and the ‘improving Katherine’ arrangement came to an end fairly swiftly.

“After this time, I used to visit Katherine and Birte in their house in Fulham in London. This was during the early- mid 60s when everything seemed to be coming alive. The house was always full of interesting people and the atmosphere bohemian, partly because Birte took in lodgers from the Royal College of Art, including some who later became well known – including David Hockney. Katherine and I loved – and were excited by – the music and atmosphere of it all and going to current fashionable films such as “Jules et Jim” and folk clubs. We were still as giggly as we had been as children and for some reason, the fact our surnames were ‘Little’ and ‘Littlejohn’ amused us tremendously. Once when we were trying to book theatre tickets, we were laughing so hysterically when we had to give our names to a “posh” box office person, we had to put the phone down and never did, as I recall, make it to whatever play it was.

“Katherine was, unbeknownst to everyone at that time, very dyslexic, which made it difficult for her to achieve academically or hold down jobs requiring good literacy and (in her case) organisational skills. However, she was successful, as her mother had been, at spotting good housing deals in her youth, and for some time continued to live in London and the Isle of Wight in various houses and flats, working as an Occupational Therapy assistant and as an artist’s model.


Katherine’s prize winning painting (Photo supplied by Rachel Lever)

“The death of her mother in 1989 was a great blow to Katherine and it is sad that Birte never knew that her dyslexia was finally diagnosed and that Katherine successfully completed a degree in Art at Portsmouth College of Art and Design in her 40s. Not only did she graduate with a good degree, but her Final Show painting achieved First Prize and was taken to be exhibited at a well-known London gallery. It was indeed a fine piece of work and the celebration afterwards was pretty good too as I recall, attended as it was by her cousin Hanne – her nearest relative in England and her husband and various friends and colleagues.

“Shortly after this, Katherine moved to Hastings where she spent many happy years and was involved with the Arts Forum there and with the Art Department at Hastings College. It was fun visiting her there and sitting outside her beach hut or at her allotment with a glass of wine. Katherine loved being by the sea and the atmosphere and people of Hastings, where she made some good friends, suited her down to the ground. Katherine never married, but did have a number of flirtations and fulfilling relationships during the course of her life.

Photo Rachel Lever

Photo Rachel Lever

“Apart from her undoubted creativeness, the characteristics I most associate with Katherine are her kind-heartedness and her strength of character. She was always first to dash out for a card and a present for friends who were unwell or in trouble, although she never had much money. A staunch Labour Party supporter, she was always ready to seek justice and defend the underdog and we used to laughingly bemoan how our mothers would be turning in their graves about the state of politics currently. She was involved with anti-war campaigns and demonstrations and a collection has been made by a Hastings group and sent to CND in her name.

“Since moving to Torquay two years ago, Katherine had got involved with voluntary work with homeless people and with Labour campaigning there. Katherine was also fond of animals and would stroke and pet cats loudly and animatedly in the street whenever she came across them.

“Life was not always easy for Katherine as her dyslexia, perhaps increasingly as she got older, hindered her in quickly understanding some things, particularly technology (not that she was alone in this!). However, she always battled on and determinedly achieved her goals, often with the help of people she had met at Community Centres, Libraries and Charities. In many ways she was unafraid and admirably independent. She could be messy, stubborn and infuriating, but she certainly was a trooper.

“We have lost an unusually beautiful, uniquely eccentric, creative and above all kind person and it has been an honour and a privilege to have spent so much of life’s journey alongside you, Katherine. Love always.”


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Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 12:59 Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018 In: Hastings People


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Lorna Crabbe

    Really sorry to hear this. I remember Katherine very well – when I first took over Coastal Currents she was one of the first artists to get in touch, she was very enthusiastic and came along to many of the events, was very much a part of things.

    Comment by Lorna Crabbe — Monday, Feb 26, 2018 @ 22:15

  2. S.Moore

    When I first read Erica’s message about Katherine’s death I couldn’t picture her. I am so glad you put a few photos in HOT as I now know who she is/was. As she was last living in the West Country I realise why I had not seen her around lately. We used to sit and chat about many different subjects at the forum. Also I do not think I ever attended a march or protest event without seeing her there. She was a lovely soul with a strong sense of right.
    Be in peace, dear Katherine, I am honoured to have met you, however brief.

    Comment by S.Moore — Friday, Feb 9, 2018 @ 12:19

  3. Fernando Bauza

    Katherine was such a character, she loved checking charity shops where we met frequently. On Saturdays she would come to the Hastings CND stall, later the Hastings against War stall to support our witness and bring us some tea or coffee from Jempsons. We won”t forget her.

    Comment by Fernando Bauza — Thursday, Feb 8, 2018 @ 22:33

  4. Nick Hanna

    I am so sorry to hear of the death of Katherine. I knew her through HUB and I always thought she was a very strong, creative individual.

    Comment by Nick Hanna — Thursday, Feb 8, 2018 @ 18:17

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