ROBIN RUSHER was an outstanding acupuncturist and a courageous and effective advocate for the cause of complementary medicine.
Born in Cheltenham in 1952, Rusher was an academically gifted student who went to Cambridge as a King's College scholar at 17 and graduated with a double First in English. I first met him when he came to do postgraduate work at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Birmingham University in the early 1970s. His demanding, analytic intelligence, great curiosity about and capacity for new experiences, intensity of commitment and purpose, combined with an infectious sense of humour and irresistible personal charm, made an unforgettable impression on his fellow-students and academic supervisors alike. Despite his youth, he played an influential role in shaping the centre's work and direction.
Rusher had developed serious and considered socialist convictions and, like many of the brightest students of his generation, became involved in community organising in the city. He joined Troops Out, the campaign against British troops in Northern Ireland, and 'Big Flame', the most democratic libertarian, least sectarian of the small groupings on the Left. This style of political involvement, based on working with working people on the immediate issues affecting their everyday lives, perfectly suited his open and sympathetic personality. However, increasingly he found the conflicting claims of academic and political work impossible to reconcile; and, disillusioned with the formalities of academic life (though never with the life of the mind and intellect as such), he gave up academic research, to our great disappointment.
After leaving Birmingham, he worked for a time as a ticket-collector at Waterloo station, where he could be seen on winter nights, in his great, black, British Railways overcoat, his pocket stuffed with some difficult theoretical text, his gold-rimmed NHS glasses surmounting an ever-cheery grin. With his boyish good looks, deceptive innocence and striking personal grace, he reminded one of a revolutionary student narodnik from some late-19th-century Russian novel. He seemed to be marking time. However, a chance encounter with an acupuncturist redirected his intellectual energies and gave his life new meaning.
He became one of Britain's leading young acupuncture practitioners, regarded with affection and respect by his 2,000 patients, young and old. He struggled, at great personal cost, to bring the advantages of complementary therapies within the reach of the local Hackney residents who could not afford private fees, and to destroy the artificial barriers between conventional and alternative medicine, succeeding in getting a complementary medicine unit established within the NHS. He was busy on other projects, including writing film and television scripts, when he died, on the way to work, of a heart attack.
Robin Rusher's gifted intelligence, wit, above all, his generosity and openness of spirit, are a profound loss to all those friends, colleagues, patients and acquaintances whose lives his luminous presence, however fleetingly, touched and illuminated.