Remembering Rodney Bickerstaffe, War on Want President: 6 April 1945 – 3 October 2017

5 October 2017 - 4:00pm
News

All of us at War on Want were deeply sorry to hear that Rodney Bickerstaffe, our long-standing President, passed away this week. Rodney's passion for tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice was matched by his humility. Rodney wasn't interested in titles. He was our President because he was determined to further War on Want's vision for a better world. "Use me while people still know who I am," he used to say. 

Rodney also knew his stuff. He spoke about our work from a place of knowledge and conviction, whether it was on Bangladesh, Palestine, corporate accountability, or economic justice. He spoke on our platforms at the TUC and Labour Party conferences and of course, at War on Want’s 60th Anniversary event in the House of Lords, where he addressed people with memorable eloquence. 

He always managed to give War on Want a shout, even when he wasn't there to speak on our behalf. I remember four years ago he spoke at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival - he didn't know I was in the audience but I was there to hear him, from the main stage, heartily encouraging everyone in the audience to affiliate to to War on Want!

In 2006, several Prospect members cycled from London to Scarborough, where their annual conference was being held, to raise funds for War on Want. No one from the office was able to get to Scarborough for the day they were scheduled to arrive. So, Rodney made the trip from Doncaster and despite being soaked to the skin, he was there to make sure they had a bottle of champers and a rousing speech.

I think a lot of people have learnt from him about valuing the voices of others. When chairing a meeting, he would start the discussion by explaining, in his warm South Yorkshire accent, "Now, we can have one contribution lasting 30 minutes, or 30 lasting one minute. And I’ll tell you which it’s going to be”.

That we have never managed to find anyone to step into his shoes is a testament to the kind of man Rodney was. He was a great trade unionist, a great advocate for our organisation and a great voice for justice. Our thoughts and solidarity are with his loved ones. He will be greatly missed by all of us here at War on Want.

 

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