Edition number 65; dateline 1 August 2013
A fond but reluctant farewell
We hope that regular readers of The Leisure Review will forgive us taking a little time over recent weeks coming to terms with the loss of Nick Reeves, who died in early July after suffering a stroke. At such a time our thoughts have, of course, been with Nick's wife, Janet, his daughters and his family but also with the huge number of people who were lucky enough to count upon the incomparable Mr Reeves as a colleague, a friend and a fellow Wilkesian. Publication of our July issue was lost amid the sorrow and our August issue, or what should more accurately be referred to as our ‘Summer August/July’ issue, includes a number of items celebrating his all too brief but oh so brilliant presence in our lives.
In recent years Nick had served as executive director of CIWEM (the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management), transforming the Institution from a traditional professional body focused solely on engineering and the water industry into an far-sighted and innovative organisation that looked to its environmental remit as its driving force and increasingly recognised the wider cultural impact of environmental issues. From the perspective of The Leisure Review, Nick was our oldest friend and staunchest supporter who almost single-handedly populated our letters page while contributing regular articles to challenge accepted wisdoms within the cultural sector. His piece for The Leisure Review on Marcel Duchamp and the influence of surrealism on 20th century art, not to mention an aspiring young artist from Birmingham, remains one of the most informed, accessible and insightful pieces on art you will find anywhere. Those who know of Nick as the founder and host of the Wilkes Society Dining Club, which met regularly at the Reform Club in London, will remember him for his intelligence, his highly infectious good humour and his love of debate. For someone who included an OBE, freedom of the City of London and numerous other symbols of the establishment on his CV, Nick was a steadfast and vocal supporter of radicalism in both thought and deed, which made him intriguing, inspiring and delightful company. Alongside an obituary you will also find Peter Treadgold’s appreciation of Nick as a friend and a colleague, which Peter somehow managed to deliver with poise and precision at Nick’s funeral.
It was fitting, if a little sobering, that Mr Reeves’ final journey should have had the South West Middlesex Crematorium as its destination. The journey from church service to committal took mourners around the perimeter of Heathrow airport, where they could ponder the environmental realities of the modern air transport industry, always a target of Nick’s ire, and then to the beautiful gardens of the crematorium itself, where a Green Flag Award, the nationally celebrated badge of excellence for parks, was flying proudly in the sunshine. The editor of The Leisure Review is fond of telling how he was present in Mr Reeves’ office in ILAM House all those years ago when Mr Reeves, then director of policy for the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management, first came up with the idea of a quality scheme for parks management, perhaps with some sort of flag as a symbol of excellence. No matter how often this story is told, my version always stops short of the bit I solemnly offer Mr Reeves the benefit of my professional opinion, essentially summarised as: “It will never work.” Twenty years after this conversation took place some 1,400 flags currently fly in parks around the country.
To say that Mr Reeves will be missed is a statement of fact that falls some way short of the enormity of the situation. As we await details of a memorial service to be held later in the year, let us just say that a great many people now have a Reeves-sized hole in their lives that will weigh very heavily indeed.
letter from the editor
The Leisure Review editorial