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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Joy Greenwood

Norman Kay obituary

Norman Kay and his wife, Kate, founded a socialist bookshop in Bristol called Full Marks
Norman Kay and his wife, Kate, founded a socialist bookshop in Bristol called Full Marks Photograph: provided by friend

Norman Kay, who has died aged 77, was the first Green party chair of Stroud district council and was still in office as vice-chair. He served the council for 21 years, first as Labour and later a Green party representative, as well as being a Nailsworth town councillor for 14 years, including three as mayor.

Norman was first elected as a Labour councillor in 1983, for the village of Leonard Stanley and then Nailsworth. He became deputy leader of the Labour group, chief whip and chair of the housing committee. Following the Iraq war, he resigned from the Labour party and was re-elected to Stroud district council as a Green councillor in 2016. Besides being chair and vice-chair, he served on a wide range of committees. A Stroud Green party spokesperson described him as “irreplaceable”.

Born in Bethnal Green, east London, to Sylvia (nee Sidloff) and Sidney Kay, a radical Jewish family, Norman went to Hackney Downs grammar school. He became politically active as a teenager, serving as secretary of Hackney Independent Labour party. After a spell of taxi driving in London, he studied sociology and political science under Zygmunt Bauman at Leeds University and was elected to the student union executive committee.

After graduation, he became a social worker in Doncaster in 1973, then Bristol in 1976, and, finally, Gloucestershire, from the early 1980s to 2006. With his wife, Kate (nee Berry), whom he met at university and married in 1971, and some friends he established a socialist/feminist bookshop in Bristol called Full Marks.

Master’s degrees in social administration under Peter Townsend (Bristol University, 80s) and public administration (Birmingham University, 90s), and a degree in chemistry (Open University, 2000s) followed. By the 90s, Norman was managing his own adult and mental health social work team. He was accredited as a specialist in mental health early in his time at Bristol.

A kind, gentle and principled man, Norman was widely respected across his community. He could “disagree agreeably”, and worked constructively with a wide range of groups, of different political views and none. A committed member of the council’s equality, diversity and inclusion working group, he was its chair in 2021.

He was actively involved in Stroud’s Gay Pride and Holocaust Memorial days and supported anti-slavery initiatives, including the removal of the Blackboy clock in Stroud. He also supported calls for Palestinian rights.

Norman collected for the poppy appeal every year and served on the Cotswolds area of outstanding natural beauty committee. He was active in promoting the Stroud show and liked to exhibit his own rare breed Cotswold sheep locally. Norman and Kate also had a goat, horses and pigs. He was still looking after his livestock up to last year. A keen racing supporter, he was a member of Cheltenham racecourse.

I met Norman at a constituency Labour party meeting in Stroud, where Kate and I shared the role of constituency secretary. He and I were friends for 40 years.

Norman is survived by Kate, and his sister, Frances.

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