Keith Faulkner: Trade unionist and TUC stalwart for more than three decades

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The Independent Online

Keith Faulkner was one of the stalwarts of the Trades Union Congress, where he made his name as an organiser of events and conferences, as well as running rallies, demonstrations and festivals. A taciturn, straightforward man of few words, unless they were needed, Faulkner worked for the TUC for over 30 years. He joined as a press officer mainly responsible for design, working firstly under the flamboyant former European Union PR Brian Murphy and then under Brendan Barber, who would eventually become TUC general secretary. At that time, the TUC was coming to the end of its partnership with the Labour Government, which was to split open with the "winter of discontent".

The subsequent election of a new Conservative Government intent on curbing the powers of the trade unions would see Faulkner's role change as he took on more of the duties: organising demonstrations, making sure that they were well marshalled, and that, being run under the auspices of the TUC, they would be trouble free. The maximum impact would be gained by large numbers in a disciplined manner. He would become one of the most recognised figures behind many of the campaigns waged by the TUC.

Faulkner was born in Durham, his father a local government official and his mother a nurse. When he was 13 the family moved to Godalming in Surrey, where his father took up the role of town clerk. Faulkner was to retain the directness of the northerner for the rest of his life, having little time for time-wasters and sycophants. He was never scared of saying what he felt about things. A tall, good-looking man, bearded and with longish hair, he stood out from the crowds. His appearance certainly deterred troublemakers. His northern origin was also reflected in his support for Manchester United, but, always pragmatic, he was often to be found on the terraces of his local London club, Tottenham, with his colleagues from the TUC.

On leaving school Faulkner served a five-year apprenticeship as a hot metal compositor. He later studied art and design at Reading University, where he became active in the National Union of Students, and during their 1968 campaigns, following the student occupation of the Hornsey College of Art, was an active participant in the occupation of art schools and colleges. His ability to produce striking, well-designed posters, leaflets and publications, that were clear-cut and easy to read, had a great influence on material produced firstly by the NUS and subsequently by the TUC. His house style was to influence future publications of both organisations.

It was during his days in the NUS that he met Christine, whom he subsequently married in the mid-1980s. They were to have two sons, but were eventually to separate.

With the advent of the Conservative Government, the TUC found itself no longer a partner in government, but now in opposition. With the Labour Party in disarray it led the fight back against Mrs Thatcher's plans to reorganise industries and with them many of the then current working practices. Faulkner was in charge of three of the major campaigns that defined the role of the TUC in the 1980s and the 1990s, firstly with the People's March for Jobs and then with the TUC's Jobs and Recovery campaign. In 1992 he organised the 250,000-strong march against pit closures. At the same time he organised demonstrations on other issues, such as pensions and equality, as well as carrying out more mundane duties such as providing services for the various conferences and congresses. Faulkner was a perfectionist; his professionalism and efficiency to get the work done made a great impact on the journalists covering those events.

Paying tribute to his work, the TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: "Keith was held in high regard not only by his trade union colleagues but by all those who dealt with him,be they a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police or a rank and file demonstrator; whether the managing director of a major conference centre ordelegate with special-access requirements. His method and his appearance were not always orthodox, but hewas a man of principle and thoroughly professional."

The culture and traditions of the working-class movement and the public in general have always been seen by the TUC as being vital in educating and producing a better society. Faulkner was to take this on board in 1996 when he led the organisation of the first Respect Festival. Over 80,000 people were to attend the TUC's anti-racist music event in Finsbury Park, north London.

In 2009, Faulkner played a major part in planning the G20 Put the People First demonstration that involved more than 100 organisations. At the time he died, of a heart attack, he was hard at work organising the TUC's March demonstration against the coalition government's cuts.

Peta Steel

Keith Faulkner, trade union organiser, and designer: born Durham 11 February 1948; married Christine (separated; two sons); died 13 December 2010.

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