Rosie Foster died on 8 February at the age of 61, a couple of short months after being diagnosed with cancer. She was an extraordinary human being who made a deep impression.
I can’t remember when I first met Rosie; it seemed she had always been around in Leeds. She lived in Tangram Housing Co-op in the 90s and had some involvement in Horton Women’s Holiday Centre, but our lives properly connected after she moved to Nutclough Housing Co-op in Hebden Bridge and joined Radical Routes’ co-ordinating team for the Co-operators Camp at the Green Gathering last year.
Her role as logistics co-ordinator was perfect – whatever we needed, she knew where to find it, who to borrow it from or she’d been storing it waiting for it to come in useful. And she made the beautiful Co-op Camp banner. Our crew of co-operators who came together there was inspired, challenged and kept in check by her – and not only when it came to the washing up.
She was determinedly grounded in the practical necessities of life, love and radical action. Since her death, it has become apparent just how remarkable she was. “I didn’t know you knew Rosie” has been a phrase in many a conversation. She was involved in so very many things.
In the 70s, Rosie organised with Women’s Aid and Women Against Violence Against Women. She helped set up a women’s housing co-op in Leeds, and was part of the original group who set up Horton Women’s Holiday Centre – she was at the auction when the house was bought in the late 70s.
When the centre had trouble recruiting staff not so long ago, Rosie held the fort, working there for several months because it had to be done. She made things happen that others thought impossible, and could be infuriating in her determination.
She was truly indefatigable, but also felt things keenly: sometimes exuberantly happy and optimistic, sometimes hurt or incredibly angry. She loved nature and nurture – mixing them both, nurturing relationships, people and plants. She encouraged her girls to enjoy going barefoot in mud and taught her toddler housemate which garden plants were safe to eat.
She was a campaigner, a maker, a builder, a co-operator, a carer, an artist, a gardener, a carpenter and an enthusiast, always full of ideas, a love of life and a love of people.
Come the 90s, she fostered two little girls and fought the system to be able to adopt them as a single gay woman. Recent years saw her involved in Occupy, charcoal-burning, polytunnel building and anti-fracking campaigning, including an arrest at Barton Moss.
Over the past year, she could be seen providing tea for those on all-night gate duty at the Blackpool anti-fracking Reclaim the Power gathering, and was involved in the Withington Eco-House co-op being built in Manchester.
She leaves behind her a vast array of family, friends, lovers and comrades. The last word goes to a fellow co-op camper, who knew her only for one week: “If we were all motivated by her example to live today as if justice, peace and the environment mattered more than anything else, we’d still barely approach the altruism, energy and passion that Rosie brought to everything she did. But we can – and should – try.”