Sonja Grossner 1942-2020

We hear with sadness that one of the founder members of People’s Arts Collective – PAC, Sonja Grossner died last night, 12 April 2020. She had been unwell for some time. Our thoughts are with her daughter Lorna Grossner, who is also an active PAC member.

Sonja is the daughter of Margarete and Peter Klopfleisch who came originally from Germany, seeking sanctuary in Prague during WW2, and fleeing again in 1939 from Prague to UK as Hitler sought out the Communists. Sonja was born in UK in 1942, but returned to Dresden, formerly East Germany, with her mother for a holiday in 1960 however they were not allowed to leave and she stayed there until coming back to UK in 1984. You can find more information about Sonja’s life online.

Sonja is a talented artist, composing music for orchestras and playing herself, writing poetry and creating artworks, and is well-known at Leicester’s New Walk Museum and in local poetry circles. She has been a political activist, and she frequently spoke with passion for the right of women to have access to equal opportunities in the world of composing, music and art, where funding and support so often favours men.

Sonja been proud of her only daughter, Lorna who is also a skilled artist like the women in her family who have gone before her, and together they have made a great contribution to People’s Arts Collective activities since we began in 2014. PAC arose out of the idea within members of Leicester’s Branch of Left Unity, of which Sonja was a founder member, that we should change the world through art, bringing ideas to life and challenging inequality with the aim of making the world a better place for all.

Sonja often spoke of her mother’s use of political thought in her artwork, which depicted many aspects of humanity including great struggle, and she wrote her mother’s lifestory in the wonderful book ‘Troubles to Greet Beauty’. A sample of Margarete Klopfleisch’s work is displayed in Leicester’s New Walk Museum amongst the German Expressionists.

Sonja and Lorna inspired PAC’s contribution to the Everybody’s Reading Festival on 8 October 2016 which took place in New Walk Museum with the theme of ‘Seeking Sanctuary – Walls’. People’s Arts Collective commissioned a play based on a piece of Margarete Klopfleisch’s story using theatre, poems, art, music and visual display. The play was written by Alison Dunne, actress: Hayley Thornton, music: Sonja Grossner. You can see this play here:

So we say farewell to an inspirational woman, and our thoughts are particularly with her daughter Lorna, her only surviving relative in UK, at this time.