Saturday, 12 September 2015

Sheila Robin: fellow activist and friend

Sheila Robin
A wave of disbelief swept through friends and fellow activists of Sheila Robin on Wednesday when  we heard of her death after a short illness.

Sheila combined energy, commitment, thoughtfulness, courage and a love of life in a unique way that makes her loss particularly painful.  Fiercely politically independent, she not only supported many campaigns but did much of the detailed  hard work that made them successful.  

Characteristically my last email from her was about the Brent Stop the War meeting that is being held on Monday. She was concerned that the title  of the talk 'Don't bomb Syria' was rather boring and uninspiring and urged people to come up with something 'brilliant'.

That nagging at the detail to get the most out of a political action was very much a Sheila trait and the annual Stop the War-Brent PSC Fundraising Garden Party was an event that brought her organising skills to the fore. She managed to persuade Julie Felix to perform this year which made it our most successful fundraiser to date.

Sheila never shrank from difficult issues, thinking exhaustively through all the principles involved, before reaching a position. I saw this close up when we were involved in the controversy over the Tricycle Theatre's decision not to accept Israeli government funding of the Jewish Film Festival.

It wasn't all hard work though, Sheila enjoyed having fun whether at the theatre, cinema, comedy club, choir or sailing!

Below are tributes from those who both worked with Sheila politically and enjoyed socialising with her:

Sheila with Brent Stop the War Banner

From Brent Stop the War Facebook: I am sorry to have to pass on the very sad news that Sheila Robin, the immensely hard working secretary of Brent Stop The War, active in the Red/Green socialist choir and many more labour movement and international campaigns died suddenly on Tuesday. 

Sheila has been absolutely central to Brent Stop the War, making it the priority of her political activity for the last few years. We will miss her immensely.

We felt that Sheila would have wanted us to proceed with Monday’s meeting and to do all we can to keep the group going, although she will be impossible to replace.

Sheila had been unwell for several months and was awaiting an operation, but we all expected her to recover in the near future, so this has come as a huge shock to us all. Our thoughts are with her daughter, Anna, and all the family at this very difficult time.

Sarah Cox (Brent Stop the War)

Sheila contributed so much to so many - individuals and causes.... Here is a photo of her, taken a few years ago, with her friend (and my partner) Ian Saville.  Sheila was always a person to go to for good advice. She absolutely committed to thinking and thinking and thinking again about the best way to go about things - whether it was buying a new hoover or organising a campaign or supporting family and friends with some difficulties to sort out.

Pam Laurance
Sheila was a dedicated and hard-working member of Brent Stop the War from its inception, taking on the role of Secretary in recent years. She worked tirelessly on fund-raising intitatives and to make our monthly meetings a success. In recent months, she was especially inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to become Labour leader, contacting repeatedly her local MP to get her to nominate him. Her persistence succeeded and Jeremy got the requisite number of nominations, allowing him to achieve today’s stunning success. It is highly poignant that Sheila is not here to share in the celebrations today. More than that, she will be greatly missed by activists in Brent who will remember her anti-war and anti-cuts campaigning and her unshakeable belief that a better world was possible. 

Mike Phipps, Chair, Brent Stop the War.

Sheila was inspiring to work with, a human Dynamo as described by Diane. 

I was inspired by Sheila to implement strategies /ideas/suggestions that were originally thought impossible or impractical. She did not follow 'a party line' and was always questioning.

She initiated contacts with a variety of community and political groups as well as individuals such as Joan Baez.

Sheila had a wide range of friends and interest.  I always enjoyed going with Sheila to mainly non mainstream theatre, comedy, concerts and cinema, although I never sailed with her  or accompanied her to distant places!

Sheila would proclaim each year she would withdraw from organising meetings and fund raising but each year she would be involved as enthusiastically as before. She was always direct and honest. 

Despite her medical problems and the associated pain and exhaustion Sheila would persevere.

We will miss her.

Liz Lindsay (Brent and Harrow Palestine Solidarity Campaign) 

There was a sense of unbearable shock to hear the news of Sheila Robin’s death. She had not been struggling with a long term illness but had died after a short period of ill health.  It was not as if she was a close friend, but it was as an activist in Jews for Justice for Palestinians that I came to know her.  She was someone who could be relied on to be open and forthright, to address issues with a passion and with commitment.  

Sheila was someone who could be relied on to make a contribution to debate and to take on the humdrum tasks that any organisation needs.  We kept bumping into one another at meetings, at events and at protests.  This is how many of us came to know and appreciate Sheila, a sound helper and comrade active in the grassroots of the movement for Palestinian self determination.   Her courage and good humour were always in evidence and it is almost impossible to absorb the fact that her vibrant personality is no longer with us.  It was a privilege to know her

Diana Neslen (Jews for Justice for Palestinians)

 I was very shocked and saddened to hear about about Sheila. She was always one of the people I could guarantee to bump into on any protest and campaign, and we waved hello to each other at the crowded Jeremy Corbyn meeting in the Camden Centre just a few weeks ago. I also used to see her occasionally in her work capacity in Islington. Wishing long life to her family and close friends.

David Rosenberg (Jewish Socialist Group)

Sheila was both a friend and a fellow activist. She was always a pleasure to work with for her enthusiasm, great ideas and energy. She was completely dedicated and an important part of a number of local, national and international campaigns and will be missed by all. I particularly appreciated her support and advice.

Aisha Maniar

Please feel free to add futher tributes as comments or by email.

No comments: