It’s with great sadness that we report the passing of Keith Richardson. Keith was a passionate advocate and supporter of social enterprise, and one of NESEP’s founders.
Below we reproduce in full an obituary for Keith, written by his friend and colleague Guy Turnbull.
Keith died doing what he loved – cycling. That is a lesson for all of us – a great life, and a good death.
Keith was a giant of a man – tall and bombastic, and full of love, fun, and values. There was no ‘edge’ to Keith, no petty agendas – he only wanted to do good – to build a fairer world. And this is what he spent his life doing, through the vehicle of social enterprise.
I can’t write a chronological obituary of Keith’s achievements. I don’t have the patience or the commitment to prose. I also don’t have Keith here to edit for me. But it is important to celebrate the significant impact of Keith’s work.
That’s where we begin. Keith was a communicator. Ironically his stroke robbed him of some eloquence some four years ago, but what I loved about his response to that crisis was he never gave up. He just tried harder, driven by his core values of innate desire to make the world a fairer, safer place. His partner, Elspeth, stood by him throughout, and has my enormous respect for that. At a time of somebody’s death, we sometimes forget the part played by others. Elspeth we salute you.
So what can I say about Keith?
Little about his early career that can be surpassed by his own performance – Trucking with Trident (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNkOS8GgXv4) which is great #retro ’Keith’.
I first met Keith in the early 90s, pre Trucking with Trident, when as a very young Local Authority Co-op Development Officer I commissioned Keith’s first business, Communicate, to deliver a marketing course to a bunch of Community Credit Unions. They loved him, although Keith complained about being ‘goosed’ on more than one occasion.
Apart from this minor distraction, Communicate did some great work including:
- Providing marketing services for the Riverside Music Co-operative – voted the second best music venue in Britain.
- Developing new approaches to consultation and empowerment work supporting the establishment of a number of community owned buildings including Dawdon Community Centre and the West End Health Resource Centre.
- Marketing of fair trade finance society Shared Interest which now has a fund of £33 million
- Supporting the community led Action for Arthur’s Hill, one of the most successful regeneration agencies in the West End of Newcastle
- Marketing support to 16 social enterprises and voluntary sector organisations in Tower Hamlets.
Prior to Communicate, Keith worked for the marketing department of Washington Arts Centre and was then Campaigns Organiser for the mental health charity, MIND.
Keith then joined the sustainability centre, Earth Balance as Education and Training Co-ordinator. Here he worked with local people on sustainability issues, managed day care services for people with disabilities, created a number of social firms and supported on site businesses and social enterprises to develop.
Developing out of Earth Balance, Keith established Community Balance as a community led charity to support local people enjoy more sustainable lifestyles and improve their quality of life.
Fast forward to today, where Keith is dead, I have lost a good friend, and the social enterprise movement has lost what I would describe as an unsung hero. What many people won’t know is:
Keith was a driving force of Economic Partnerships Limited (EPL) – an amazing collaboration of people who wanted to do ‘Social Enterprise Differently’. We made some mistakes, had some big successes, and of all us had love and fun.
As part of EPL, Keith was a key architect of the strategy to develop the North East Social Enterprise Partnership, and the funding bids to the EU which essentially resulted in the creation of two of the UK’s most scaleable social enterprises – Care & Share Associates Limited and Co Wheels. However, his main involvement was in establishing Community Renewable Energy (CoRE), a multi stakeholder co-operative, which developed community owned renewable energy systems.
Also as part of EPL Keith wrote a successful bid for £3millon to establish Castle Woods and Water programme of environmental developments, resulting in the establishment of the Greater Morpeth Development Trust, plus a bid to the Health Living Centre programme, securing upwards of £5m for South Tyneside.
I remember now with a degree of both warmth and horror how we worked through the night to pull those bids off – Keith always smiling and delivering brilliant prose and pizza in equal amounts – executing a strategy that we had all collaborated on.
Keith’s commercial passion was I think social franchising, and his founding and drive for the European Social Franchising Network (ESFN) was testament to that. Keith was loved by his European colleagues, and one of our defining memories must be riding bikes through Berlin (led by Keith shouting ‘traffic signals are advisory!’) on of our many EU events. At the time of Keith’s death, he was actively seeking funding support for him (as somebody with a brain injury) to support the development of ESFN – some people just don’t give up!
Apart from his social enterprise achievements, for me, Keith was a generous friend who looked after me and my kids when we really needed it. I am glad he was a friend. I am proud that we shared a social enterprise together for so many years.
Aside from Social Enterprise, Keith’s other passions were music and food. He loved going to live gigs, was a frequent visitor to the Green Festival and always had music playing whenever and wherever he could. He was always the last one eating at the table and was never happier to be in his kitchen cooking up something delicious for his many friends.
Though at times Keith could be headstrong, he always cared deeply about the people who were important in his life and about the causes he supported in view of his longer term ambition of saving the world. Though he may not achieved this last ambition, he did make a difference.
His enduring and utter love and devotion for his two sons, Jamie and Joe, was outstanding. He was one of the first of the generation of ‘new men’ and took his responsibilities to his kids seriously – their happiness and security was his mission. He adored them.
Finally, as Keith’s partner Elspeth told me following Keith’s death, ‘I thought we had more time’….. Keith is a lesson to us all – not only in his untimely death, but the fact that we should ‘cram a lot in’. Keith achieved so much. He did spend his full life building a fairer word.
Guy Turnbull, March 2016