We at the Co-operative Heritage Trust are sad to announce that one of our Trustees, Nigel Todd passed away suddenly on the 26th of March this year, aged 73.

Nigel joined the board of our charity after nomination by one of our founding organisations, the Co-operative College. Nigel was Chair of the College’s board and an ardent supporter of co-operatives as well as provision for adult education and development.

In 2014 he agreed to deposit an oral history interview recording with the National Co-operative Archive about his ‘life in Co-ops’ and the following is taken directly from his spoken word:

Nigel grew up in Welling, South East London only four miles from Woolwich and as a child was very familiar with the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (pictured in this post) where his family members shopped, saved and enjoyed their holiday and leisure time. One of Nigel’s jobs (common to many of our older museum visitors today) was to pick up shopping for his Grandmother and record her purchases against her ‘divi’ number. Aged 16, Nigel joined as a member himself to save wages from his first job after leaving school which was packing children’s clothing in a central London basement. Nigel described his experience as an active member as ‘gliding into’ being a co-operator because lots of people around him were involved, not just in the society for their shopping but also for their political lives as community members. He spoke about the affiliations of the R.A.C.S with the local Labour Party and the left wing political committees which led to his own involvement with the Young Socialists and co-operative networks and this made him aware that at the time, in the mid 1960’s, lots of life-long co-operators were concerned that not enough younger people were becoming active members.

Nigel remembered reading a copy of the New Statesman and seeing an advertisement for a job as an admin clerk for the Workers Education Association (WEA) which required typing skills he didn't have, but he applied anyway and learned ‘on the job’. He would eventually be a Student, a Tutor and a Regional Director for the North East Division  - describing the organisation and it’s staff in the 1970’s as kind, patient, sympathetic and able to engage him in learning in a way he had never experienced during his formal schooling. Working for the WEA brought Nigel closer to the co-operative movement acting as a ‘bridge’ between organisations sharing similar values, especially in places outside London where collective working was less common. While living in the North East, Nigel joined the West End Housing Co-op in Newcastle and became a City Councillor working particularly to support the setting up of a Co-operative development agency for those in worker co-operatives during the 1980’s.

Today the West End Housing Co-op has 13 properties and operates through the active membership which Nigel embodied throughout his life.

Nigel believed in everyday actions making a difference and advocated for people to bring about big change in small ways – making conscious choices about how to live, travel, where to shop and invest in order to recognise a connection between the ‘everyday act and the changing of society’.

The staff and other trustees were lucky enough to have known Nigel personally and benefitted directly from his passion for co-operative ideals during a long career and personal life associated with the movement in the UK.

A personal tribute from Mervyn Wilson - Chair of Trustees

The sudden and untimely passing of Nigel was a shock to all his fellow Trustees of the Co-operative Heritage Trust. 
I knew and worked on projects with Nigel for close to forty years, from the time he became a Member Relations Officer for the North Eastern Co-op. From our first conversations the passions that remained with him for the rest of his life were clear - a burning desire to challenge the deep inequalities in society and to help bring about change. 
Nigel, like many others who became active in Adult Education, had failed his eleven plus and it was employment as clerk at the Worker Education Association (WEA) that led to a scholarship to attend Ruskin College. That was also the home of the History Workshop movement - bringing together historians and activists to articulate the lives and struggles of working people and the lasting impact of their actions. Nigel served for a time as treasurer of the History Workshop Trust.
Nigel passionately believed in and trusted the power of people working together to improve their lives rather than waiting for the largesse of the rich and powerful that dominated the political structures. He was fascinated by the emergence of co-operative ideas and the close networks and underpinning ideologies that existed in the late 19th Century - often with the great Co-operative advocate and secularist George Jacob Holyoake as the link. His papers to history workshop events and publications demonstrate his love of seeing radical ideas combine with mass action to affect change, as shown by the title of his paper to the Co-operative History Workshop held as part of the celebrations for the 150th Anniversary of the Rochdale Pioneers "The Red Herring War of 1872: Women's Rights, Butchers and Co-ops in the Northern Coalfield"
That love of radical ideas combining with action helps explain other aspects of his life - his passion for adult education and the WEA, his work in the co-operative movement - in both of these areas at times as an employee at other times as an elected activist, and as a long time Councillor in his adopted home in Newcastle.
When I retired in 2015 Nigel gave me a copy of 'The People - The Rise and Fall of the Working Class' by his daughter  - Professor Selina Todd. In it he wrote:
"a reminder of our life and times and inspiration for the future"
Whilst all who knew Nigel will remember his quiet, gentle manner and  endearing smile they will also remember his deep commitment to a fairer and more just society.
Mervyn Wilson
Chair Co-operative Heritage Trust