Obituary – Keith Powell

In late February, I received the sad news that our comrade Keith Powell had died at the age of 83. Keith joined the SPGB in the early 1980s and was tremendously active in Islington Branch during its period of remarkable growth throughout the 80s. For a considerable time, he served as a very efficient Branch Treasurer. He also became the Party’s Treasurer for a time.

In his advocacy of the case for socialism, he was highly rational and analytical. In his Branch and Party work, he was meticulous, painstaking and thorough. When it came to propaganda activities, Keith was always a keen participant. A regular group of us, including Keith, would often go out selling the Standard, leafleting door-to-door and flyposting all over Islington, in a period when Islington was not so highly developed and we could always find flyposting sites, such as areas with corrugated iron and boarded-up premises. On more than one occasion, we were stopped by the police who, in their concern for private property, forced us to take down our posters. Nevertheless, our posters (both printed and handwritten) were very much in evidence around the area. Later on, Keith moved to the Midlands and became less active but, according to Beryl, his partner of over 30 years, he remained a convinced socialist and would put the Party case in conversations with friends, family and complete strangers, whenever he saw an opportunity.

He originally trained as a chemist and then got involved in food analysis. He was enthusiastic about many technical subjects, particularly electronics, and later he worked for BT as an engineer. Keith was very much ‘old school’ when it came to repairing equipment rather than slavishly following the wasteful capitalist ethos which prefers us to throw things away and buy new to boost company profits. Knowing this, back in the 80s, I asked him to fix my prized electronic typewriter which had broken down. I looked on in admiration as he meticulously dismantled it, then used a soldering iron to carry out a skilful and careful repair and then reassembled the machine, thus giving it a whole new lease of life.

I have many fond memories of Keith and I very much enjoyed his company, although I had unfortunately lost touch with him some years ago. Beryl tells me he had battled against prostate cancer for the last 10 years but up until the Covid period, they had enjoyed regular walking holidays together. As for me, I will remember him as a highly esteemed, hard-working comrade.


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