A Tribute to Nigel Todd

Nigel Todd 1947-2021

Nigel Todd, who has died aged 73, was a tireless social campaigner who sought to improve the life chances of disadvantaged adults in his role as Regional Director, Hon. Secretary and latterly as Ambassador at the WEA.

Working with us for nearly 25 years, Nigel championed lifelong learning and helped bring about significant changes such as the women’s access course enabling women to get degrees no matter their age or circumstances.

Nigel had a long association with us and the whole cause of adult learning. In an interview in 2019 for the BBC Series Great British Railway Journeys, Nigel told Michael Portillo that from aged 14 the WEA completely changed his life from being an 11+ reject with a pretty gloomy future. As a teenager, by having contact with WEA tutors, he learnt how he could develop his own education and create a future that was more fulfilling, interesting and creative than anything he could have envisaged. BBC clip here

A man with strong values, informed by an ideological commitment to helping the underdog, Nigel started his career with the WEA in 2005 as a regional director in the North East.  He was responsible for the overall management of regional adult education programmes, maintenance of strategic partnerships with the Open University, trade unions, Co-Operative Movement and others. As a treasured historian, he was actively involved in establishing our History and Heritage branch, freely sharing his knowledge and skills.

Six years later, he was able to fulfil his passion for the environment when he became Hon. Secretary for the North East England branch where the focus was to expand our involvement in environmental education. This included tackling climate change and enhancing sustainability through adult education in North East England that has resulted in the establishment of Green Branches nationwide and the topic becoming embedded in our core curriculum

Simon Parkinson, CEO of The WEA said:
“We’re deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our dear friend Nigel Todd.  His knowledge and passion for adult education (and the North East) and pioneering work in supporting environmental agenda are just the tip of the legacy he leaves behind.  Our thoughts are with his family.”

Nigel continued to be active with us from 2012 up until his passing as an 'Ambassador' connecting the WEA to potential partners in the development of democratic adult education with a social purpose. His impact included helping set up our Green Branches nationwide and our History and Heritage branch.   His historical knowledge and advocacy of adult education came to the fore in his engagement with the steering group for the Adult Education 100 campaign and influential contribution to the prestigious Centenary Commission report.

Outside the WEA, Nigel Todd was distinguished by becoming a popular Newcastle City councillor and anti-racism campaigner who dedicated his life to tackling poverty, racism and inequality.