It’s rare for someone to have changed so many lives, but Neil Jameson was a rare person.
I met him first in 1994 when he came into Tower Hamlets College where I was studying a part-time diploma in Creative Computer Graphics and Illustration. He told us of a new organisation he was setting up, The East London Communities Organisation, or TELCO, and set us the challenge of designing their logo. It was my design they chose and there followed 29 years of work and friendship with me designing and photographing for all his projects including TELCO and then South London, North London and West London Citizens. COF, the Citizen Organising Foundation, later Citizens UK, and all their campaigns on housing, the living wage, refugees and more. After his 'retirement' we worked together on his Green Party campaigns and UK Welcomes Refugees amongst other things.
His sudden death was a shock to everyone but I was honoured to do one last job for him and design his memorial, the brochure, slide show and video. Below are some of the photos of the event and at the end the video slideshow.
Neil, you changed my life immeasurably and I am forever grateful that you walked in to my college that day. You will never be forgotten and your legacy has literally benefited and continues to benefit millions of people.
About Neil Jameson
The founder of Citizens UK, the first and largest UK broad-based group of community organisers, Neil died from cancer aged 76 in April. His extraordinary legacy includes everything from the Living Wage Foundation which has since accredited over 13,000 employers, to Citizens House, an 11-home permanently affordable housing project in Lewisham
He took on everything as opponents, from a lard factory in Canning Town to pay-day lenders, and the Government over child refugees.
He didn’t do this alone, but, by harnessing community power through Citizens UK, the people-centred movement of 550 civic organisations he founded, he was a visionary who offered communities a method for listening, building power and public action, which in turn strengthened relationships across civil society and made our democracy stronger.
Born to a working-class family in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, the son of two Sunday school teachers, Neil became convinced of the power of community organising after winning a prestigious Churchill scholarship in the 80s.
His studies led him to Chicago and the legacy of activist Saul Alinksy – whose radical work as an organiser also inspired a young Barack Obama. Returning to the UK, he began to build Citizens UK – work he described as “reweaving the fabric of society”.
Neil’s legacy is felt in tens of thousands of pay packets across the UK thanks to the Living Wage campaign lifting many thousands out of poverty.
In Lewisham, South East London, it’s cemented in bricks and mortar. Citizens House has transformed an area of lock-ups into 11 sustainable homes built by the capital’s first community land trust.
In 2014, TELCO began a campaign to get HSBC workers in East London the living wage, after a child wrote in his schoolbook that his mother was “dead”. It turned out he meant that she was working so much that he never saw her.
Neil and others bought shares in HSBC to attend the shareholder meeting and leapt up to demand a living wage for cleaners. Nuns were encouraged to bring heavy church collection plates into the bank, tying up bank tellers for so many hours that bosses agreed to a meeting to talk about wages
The TELCO campaign gave children back their parents.
In 2018, Neil left Citizens UK to dedicate himself to UK Welcomes Refugees, the community sponsorship campaign he was instrumental in creating – bringing Syrians, Hongkongers and others to safety.
It was a shock to everyone when he died suddenly in April of an untreatable cancer diagnosed only days before his death.
Neil’s loss is, of course, unimaginable to his family and colleagues – his wife Jean and their four children, Ben, Ella, Will and Charlie, and his seven grandchildren.