In memoriam: Some of the friends the co-op movement lost in 2020

Remembering some of the friends the movement lost this year

March

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Lord Graham of Edmonton

The UK movement mourned a giant of co-operation when Ted Graham died in March. The politician, author and campaigner dedicated his life to co-operation: an alumnus of the Co-operative College, he was involved in retail  co-ops, the Co-operative Union and the Co-op Party – serving as a Labour/Co-op MP from 1974-1983 and later as a peer in the House of Lords.

April

Denis Goldberg was honorary president of the Woodcraft Folk

Denis Goldberg 

The South African civil rights campaigner –who was tried alongside Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu under the apartheid regime and jailed for 22 years – was also a friend of Woodcraft Folk, after his wife and children came to the UK in the 1960s and became active with the co-op youth organisation. After his release from prison in 1985 he was made its president and addressed Woodcraft Folk events.

June

Stefan Szymczak

Stefan Szymczak with his sons, Scott and James, at Glastonbury Festival in 2005

Stefan worked for the Co-op Group for more than 30 years and was a key official in the National Association of Co-operative Officials union. When the Co-op Group was formed on the merger of the CWS and CRS he joined its brand team and organised the Group’s presence at the Glastonbury Festivals in 2004 and 2005.

July

John Lewis

John Lewis

An icon of the US civil rights movement, John Lewis survived a brutal attack during a march toward the Alabama State Capitol in 1965. Co-operative values went hand in hand with his activism and he worked with the National Consumer Cooperative Bank to spread the word on co-ops to black communities across the USA, and was involved with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

Ken Medlock

CWS director Ken Medlock (1914-2020) and cricketer John Wisden (1826–84)

Ken Medlock – who died aged 105 – was chief engineer for the CWS in the 1950s and worked on the design of the CIS Tower in Manchester, before being elected to the CWS board. He then acted to stop CWS from closing Wisden – the sports manufacturer and publisher of the cricket almanac – which the co-op had bought out of receivership in the 1940s. Having saved an icon of English cricket, he went on to  become vice-president of Lancashire Cricket Club, also a co-operative.

August

Chris Herries 

Chris Herries

The Co-op Party chair, who died unexpectedly in August at the age of 73, had previously served the movement in other roles – including as first ever female chair of Co-operatives UK and as a director of the Co-op Group. She had also been a director of the Energy Saving Co-operative and was a great supporter of Revolver Co-op. She was also involved with the student housing co-op and co-operative council movements and joined UK delegations to global conference of the International Co-operative Alliance.

John Hume

John Hume

The former leader of the Northern Irish SDLP was hailed for his historic role in the Irish peace process – sharing a Nobel prize with his Ulster Unionist counterpart David Trimble. But on receiving the award he said his greatest pride was his work with credit unions. In 1960 he helped launch the Derry Credit Union – the first in Northern Ireland – and four years later became the youngest ever president of the Irish League of Credit Unions. He was also a patron of Leeds City Credit Union.

Sam Mshiu

Sam Mshiu

Born in Tanzania in 1944, Sam Mshiu promoted co-ops in his home country and then across Africa and the world; he wrote several co-op training manuals and took key roles in regional co-operative programmes led by the International Labour Organization.

Philippe Fremeaux

Philippe Frémeaux (Photo: Alternatives économiques)

The co-op journalist, who died aged 70, was a strong supporter of the social and solidarity economy and was former editor in chief and manager of Alternatives economiques, a national co-operatively run magazine, with an association that ran from 1983 until 2012.

September

Sethu Madhavan

Sethu Madhavan

Sethu Madhavan, who was born in Kerala, India, in 1952, worked at the Asia Pacific office of the International Co-operative Alliance for 45 years and played a key role in organising regional meetings and conferences, including the first ever Regional Assembly and first ever co-operative ministers conference in Sydney in 1990.

October

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly, who died aged 69, spent more than 30 years in leading roles in the credit union movement in Northern Ireland and England, starting in his home town Antrim where he managed the local credit union. He went on to play a key role in the Manchester Chapter of Credit Unions in the early 1990s. 

November

Ian Miller

John (Ian) Miller

The vice chair of Scottish Labour and member of the Co-op Party NEC had recently stood down from the board of Scotmid Co-op when he died aged 72. He also served as director of the Co-operative Education Trust and Co-operative Mutuality Scotland.

Chris Richardson

Chris Richardson

The co-op activist and radical historian held roles in the retail movement – including the Greater Nottingham Society and on the regional boards of the Co-op Group – and worked with the UK Society for Co-operative Studies. He went on to write City of Light, a radical history of early co-operators in Nottingham. 

Lars Marcus

Lars Marcus

The 11th president of the International Cooperative Alliance (1984-1995), who died aged 95, was a leading light of Sweden’s consumer co-op movement ad helped develop the Swedish Co-operative Centre. Under his leadership the ICA expanded its membership to including the agricultural, housing, insurance, banking and worker co-op sectors.

Kok Kwong Kwek

Kok Kwong Kwek (Photo: ICA)

The chair of the Singapore National Cooperative Federation, Mr Kwek died unexpectedly aged 53. He was head of the NTUC Learning Hub Co-operative, and served on the ICA’s Asia Pacific and Global Boards.

December

Ungku A. Aziz

Ungku A. Aziz

Prof Ungku Aziz played a long and important role in Malaysia’s co-op movement. He served as president of national co-op body Angkasa from its inception in 1971 until 2008, and was a pioneer of co-operative education.

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