Saturday, 11 June 2011
Patrick Rolfe, 1987-2011
I'm feeling sad today, since Patrick Rolfe, a young man I knew, died last night. He had a rare type of stomach cancer, and had been ill for a few months. Friends had expected him to survive but he went downhill suddenly.
I met him in 2009 during that peculiar episode in my life I call Vestas. Patrick and some other idealistic young people went and persuaded some of the workers at a wind turbine blade factory on the Isle of Wight to occupy the factory rather than meekly accept job losses when the Vestas company decided to close it down. I was roped in to run the 'Save Vestas' blog and it dominated my life for a good few months in 2009.
It was a pretty famous event at the time; the Guardian sold a lot of advertising space to Vestas on the back of it, as the company tried to persuade the country that they were public spirited really, not just in renewable energy for profit and government subsidies. It was about the time of the financial crash, and we hoped that the campaigning Vestas workers would inspire other sacked workers not automatically to join the dole queue but to fight for their jobs.
As well as being active in the radical environmental movement, Patrick campaigned against cuts at Sussex University; he was temporarily suspended for helping to organise an occupation there. He had just begun a PhD at Leeds University when he became ill; the topic was how windfarms can sometimes cause ecological harm, how to mitigate the harm, and how to involve communities in decision-making that might help them to embrace windfarms.
I remember Patrick above all as a very positive person. When you met him he would bowl up to you, fling down his bag, and be ready to get stuck in to whatever was going on. He was only 24 when he died and I know his good friends are going to miss him a lot, as will everyone who met him.