Co-op movement pays tribute to Chris Herries

Her roles included Co-op Party chair, Co-op Group director and first ever female chair of Co-operatives UK

The co-op movement has been paying tribute to Co-op Party chair Chris Herries – one of the leading lights of the UK co-op movement who died on Saturday aged 73.

Ms Herries, who took the role with the Party in 2019, had previously served the movement in other roles – as first ever female chair of Co-operatives UK and as a director for the Co-operative Group.

Originally a teacher, she moved into charity retailing with Oxfam, as district manager for Devon. She joined her local Co-operative Retail Services Society in the 1980s and was first elected to a national board in 1998, helping oversee the establishment of Co-op Group from 2000 onwards.

She also chaired the diversity working group for many years, campaigning for a Diversity Strategy Committee, and helped spearhead the Co-operative Women’s Challenge, launched in 2011 in partnership with the Co-operative Group and Co-operatives UK.

She sat on Norwich City Council from 2014-2018, chairing its planning committee and sitting on its cabinet with a responsibility for safe, stronger neighbourhoods.

Karin Christiansen, former general secretary of the Co-op Party, said: “She was active in so many different worlds, and made such a difference in all of them. Chris was at the heart of so many key organisations in the co-operative movement – the Party, the the Group, Co-ops UK, Co-op News to name just a few, as a well as a Labour councillor, candidate and activist most recently in Norwich and within the Christian Socialist cause.

“She also had communities around the school she founded, the markets she saved, her undying commitment to Somerset cricket, the Norwich’s Historic Churches Trust – and is so much more.”

Joe Fortune, general secretary of the Party said: “Chris was a remarkable co-operator. On top of the very many other aspects of her life, she dedicated many years to the Party, individual co-ops and co-op movement organisations. She was a passionate NEC member and great chair. She leaves an enormous co-operative legacy.

“Chris was a great source of support to me and the whole staff team and I know she was that to many others as well … Chris was a friend to me and I will miss our conversations greatly.”

Jim McMahon MP, chair of the Co-operative Party Parliamentary Group, said: “Our movement is devastated at the loss of Chris Herries, our chair and an inspiring co-operator. A woman of character and strength, and above all else a decent person.

“We will greatly miss her dedication and warmth”.

A statement from Co-operatives UK said: “Such sad news. Chris was our first female chair and driving force behind the creation of Co-op Fortnight. Chris will be very much missed.”

More tributes flowed in on Twitter – many of which highlighted her work supporting women in the co-op movement.

The Co-op Councils Innovation Network tweeted: “Known to many of us as a mentor, ally, and a guiding hand through the sometimes-unforgiving political maelstrom. A formidable co-operator, who didn’t pull her punches, Chris could be relied upon to provide sage advice and intelligence. RIP dear friend.”

Co-op News editor Rebecca Harvey wrote: “Immensely sad to hear that Chris Herries has passed away. A co-operator, politician and all-round force for GOOD.”

Many more messages have been coming in and Co-op News will cover these tributes and publish a full obituary online this week and in our forthcoming edition.

If you have other ideas about how you would like to share and celebrate Chris, please email [email protected].

The Co-operative Party and Co-op News are also collecting memories of Chris, and you can send information at [email protected] and [email protected] respectively.