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Last Thursday I attended a special event at the Curve Theatre in Leicester, where the union paid tribute to the contribution of NUJ member Stephen White at a gathering of his family and friends to formally present the NUJ Gold Badge Award. The NUJ’s Honours Committee had made the unprecedented decision earlier this year to make a posthumous award of the union’s Gold Badge, demonstrating the high esteem Stephen, who tragically died last year, was held by union friends and colleagues.

Steve was a colleague of mine when I worked in Nalgo’s (now UNISON) publicity department based in Mabledon Place in London. Here is what I said to the gathering.

“This is an evening of mixed emotions, but we are here to celebrate a life. I first met Steve as a Nalgo publicity activist – he was a member of the union’s publicity department. He organised the publicity training for branches and union activists where empowerment was the key to his approach. This was in the 1970’s when few unions had such a positive outlook towards the rank and file in organising publicity locally. Steve led this work which is a lasting legacy to the union and our movement.

In 1982 I joined the Nalgo publicity field organisers team in the union’s publicity department which was headed by Steve. I worked closely with him and colleagues organising branch activists to produce branch newssheets and magazines, organise campaigns for recruitment, against the cuts and working with local and regional media. The key was getting local branch members involved and building links with their communities and service users.

Those who worked with Steve during this time, John Monks, his partner Azmeena, Dave Cook and Geraldine Alferoff all wish to record their affection and appreciation for the work Steve did with them at Nalgo. His contribution and friendship will not be forgotten by us.

Also a message of appreciation from Pete Wrobel, a fellow NUJ NEC member who remembers Steve for his work for the Association of British Science Writers. Pete can’t be here tonight as he s travelling back from a meeting in Brussels, but asks that his remembrance be recorded.

Finally I would like to thank Steve for the opportunities he gave me – thanks Steve.”

Earlier Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands Organiser, announced the launch of a new award from the Association of British Science Writers, called The NUJ Stephen White Award for best communication of science in a non-science context.

The £500 prize fund will be awarded annually to the winner, recognising journalists who have reported science on any platform in a way that makes complicated scientific ideas accessible to the non-specialist public audience.

Liz White spoke and paid tribute to her husband: “I am immensely proud to receive the NUJ’s Gold Badge on Stephen’s behalf. Stephen would have been deeply honoured by this prestigious acknowledgement of his expertise and hard work. My husband was an amazing man, whose death was tragic and untimely. I was determined that Stephen White’s memory would live on. I can see no better way of achieving that than through such a fitting tribute as the NUJ Gold Badge Award and the establishment of the Stephen White Memorial Award with the Association of British Science Writers.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary who presented the award to Liz said: “For me Stephen epitomised the very spirit of the NUJ. He was a union stalwart – a member who encouraged and inspired others to join, who was prepared to stick his head above the parapet to speak out in defence of others, and a professional who prized quality and ethics in journalism and who proved himself a master in public relations and communication. The Gold Badge Award is a small token from the NUJ to pay tribute to Stephen’s commitment and contribution to a union he stood by, and stood up for, throughout his career.”

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands Organiser added: “Stephen was a member of the NUJ for some 35 years. We lost a treasured colleague last year and we were not prepared to see the contribution of such a fine human being to the world just vanish into thin air. We want to remember Stephen as a person who positively touched so many lives.”

A report with pics may be found on the NUJ web site at: