Nick Reeves

Artist, writer, administrator and environmentalist, The Leisure Review's oldest friend and staunchest supporter.

Nick Reeves: a passion for Duchamp, Sutherland and Bacon.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), The Leisure Review and a great many individuals across the leisure sector are still coming to terms with the sudden loss of Nick Reeves, who died on 7 July after suffering a stroke.

Having worked in local government and the leisure sector during the early part of his career, Nick joined CIWEM as executive director in 1998 and led the Institution with distinction and enthusiasm at a time when perceptions of environmental management and its impact on the planet and its resources were undergoing radical change. 

Under Nick’s leadership CIWEM developed a range of initiatives that have placed the Institution at the forefront of environmentalism but also reflected his passion for, and commitment to, the role of culture in changing attitudes and lives. Projects such as the Environmental Photographer of the Year have proved highly successful in advancing the debate regarding environmental management in addition to placing CIWEM at the centre of this debate. Many of these initiatives, not least the CIWEM networks, including the Arts and the Environment Network, and the Faiths and the Environment Network, also reflected Nick’s enthusiasm for discussion and debate.

His most recent initiative had been to support the development of the CIWEM active transport policy statement, a document that quickly gained interest and support among environment and transport groups, as well as bringing an invitation to discuss the issue with the minister for transport. No great cyclist himself, Nick was still able to see the importance of the active transport agenda and the relevance of the issue to the Institution. For Nick a key aspect of the debate was accessibility and he was continually challenging former CIWEM President Peter Treadgold to solve the pressing problem of a windproof ashtray so that any cyclist could enjoy a cigar while taking some exercise. This quest continues.

Nick had joined CIWEM from the post of director of policy and deputy chief executive at the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management (ILAM), which many in the leisure sector will remember for its efforts to represent the interests of members working in all aspects of
the management and development of sport, leisure and culture. With his prolific output of policy documents and initiatives on a wide range of areas, he was central to that institute establishing its position as one of the most influential organisations within a diverse sector. His passion for art, culture and landscape were given full reign, and Nick was instrumental in the development of the Green Flag Award scheme that is now a UK-wide initiative improving the management standards in parks and green spaces across Britain.

The son of an artist, Nick had a lifelong interest in art and design. A student at the Slade school of art, where Lucian Freud was one of his tutors and David Hockney an acquaintance, Nick was passionate about the impact and the principles of surrealism and the Dadaist movement, writing in an article for The Leisure Review that the brilliance of “Marcel Duchamp was my downfall and ended any thoughts I had of serious art practice”. However, he remained an artist throughout his life, exhibiting his work occasionally and recently selling postcard-sized originals in aid of Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity. Nick had dedicated a significant proportion of the last two years to the development of CIWEM’s new headquarters at Saffron Hill in London and he was particularly excited that the building would have its own gallery space.

An Honorary Fellow of CIWEM, Nick was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of the Institute of Horticulture, Fellow of the Institute of Directors, a Freeman of the City of London; and a Liveryman and Court Assistant of the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators. He was made an OBE in 2011 for services to the environment and was a member of the Advisory Council of environmental charity Population Matters. He was a member of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Green Flag Strategy Board, a director of the Society for the Environment, a member of the Science Council, chair of the Centre for Leisure and Cultural Studies and Research at the University of Essex and a member of an Environment Agency Advisory Committee. He was also a trustee of ‘Brumcan,’ the recycling charity, an adviser to the South East Arts Board and a member of the National Union of Journalists, writing and broadcasting regularly on green issues.

It is some measure of Nick’s success that many of these honours, fellowships and awards were acquired while he served as the Institution’s executive director but equally significant was Nick’s role in helping the Institution evolve from the position of a traditional professional body dedicated to the interests and practices of the engineering and water sectors into a far-sighted and innovative organisation that looks to its environmental remit as its driving force.

Given the vast number of honours, awards and accolades that he received, Nick was perhaps an unlikely radical but he was serious and highly knowledgeable about the politics and the history of liberty and dissent. Always ready to define and defend what – and whom – he thought to be right, it was this passion for political debate, closely married to his passion for conviviality and a good lunch, that led to him forming the Wilkes Society, a forum in which every possible topic was examined but always with laughter as an accompaniment. He was an enthusiastic supporter of The Leisure Review, supplying numerous articles and much of the correspondence on its letters page, and always ready to offer encouragement whenever the editorial team’s confidence in the value of The Leisure Review’s contribution might waver.

Nick died aged 60, a life taken too soon. He is survived by his wife Janet, two daughters and two step-children. Our thoughts are with them.

Nick Philip Reeves OBE, artist, writer, administrator and environmentalist, born 11 September 1952; died 7 July 2013.

A memorial service is to be held later in the year. The Leisure Review will let readers know of arrangements when available.

Nick Reeves' article in The Leisure Review, Marcel Duchamp: his part in my downfall, was published in November 2012. His article on the work of Graham Sutherland, An unfinished world, was published in The Leisure Review in March 2012.

The Leisure Review, August 2013

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A student at the Slade school of art, where Lucian Freud was one of his tutors and David Hockney an acquaintance, Nick was passionate about the impact and the principles of surrealism and the Dadaist movement, writing in an article for The Leisure Review that the brilliance of “Marcel Duchamp was my downfall and ended any thoughts I had of serious art practice.”

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