Karl Love “delighted and humbled” to be elected Isle of Wight Council chairman

By Press Release May 23, 2024

As previously reported, Councillor Karl Love says he is “delighted and humbled” to be elected the Isle of Wight Council’s new chairman.

He is the first person to hold the role who is in a same-sex relationship and believes his election represents a leap forward for inclusion and diversity within the council.

As he begins his new ceremonial role, taking over the reins from Councillor Claire Critchison, he says he hopes his extraordinary life journey might inspire others to “reach seemingly impossible dreams.”

The chairman is the civic figurehead of the council and, as well as presiding over Full Council meetings, they also officiate at civic functions and welcome distinguished visitors on behalf of the Island.

Councillor Vanessa Churchman was elected vice-chairman.

While there has been a positive shift in attitudes towards equality, diversity and inclusion on the Island, Karl said: “I hope my appointment will, in part, support those whose voice is stifled or hidden.”

And the ward member for East Cowes pledged to “do the very best I can” for the Island community, adding: “It is our diversity in all things that brings strength to our council.”

Karl was the Island’s first Detached Youth Worker and later became the first gay men’s outreach worker on the south coast, focusing on HIV prevention and hard to reach communities in the early 1990s.

When he arrived on the Island with his partner David Hill, he admitted it had a “reputation for being closed-minded and backward”, and he found a gay community that was “largely hidden and very frightened”.

The Channel 4 drama, ‘It’s a Sin’, echoes with many of the Island’s LGBTQ+ community who lived through those very difficult times — all living in fear of prejudice and of HIV/Aids.

Karl recalls: “It was a huge step to employ a gay man as a youth worker as, until recently, gay men had been prevented from becoming youth workers or working within education. It was a watershed moment for the Island.

“That all sounds quite incredible and sad today, but I think my election demonstrates just how much attitudes have changed on the Island, becoming more inclusive.

“As two men in a loving relationship, David and I couldn’t have even considered such a future when we first arrived here. It was a  credit to George Weech of the Island Youth Service and Patricia Vinnicombe of the NHS, who led the way towards equality alongside others.”

Karl also speaks openly about his dyslexia which he describes as his “critical friend — often tripping me up but checking to see if I’m on the ball!”.

As chairman, Karl says he will champion inclusivity while opposing grandstanding or electioneering during council meetings.

“While I support healthy debate, it is important that we focus on solutions for the big issues affecting the Island, such as poverty, housing, health services and, of course, coastal erosion,” he says.

But he warns: “There is no quick fix, however I hope in this role I’m able to make a positive difference to the quality of people’s lives.

“As councillors, I believe we are here to serve and inspire.”