The public lectures are held in memory of Alison Chesney and Eddie Killoran, who both died within 6 months of one another, in 2006. Both were well known and respected figures in the drugs field over many years and are still much missed by family, friends and colleagues alike. Following their untimely deaths a number of their friends and former colleagues began discussions to determine what might be a fitting way to remember them. Their families supported the idea of an annual memorial lecture, at which they and the work they undertook might be celebrated by those who knew them and also brought to a wider audience. The lecture is organised by Knowledge-Action-Change.
Alison, who died from cancer at the age of 48, in June 2006, had enjoyed a varied career that took in nursing, working with the homeless, front-line drugs work and senior management in both drug services and children’s services. A native and proud Scot she relocated to London in 1982, where she worked first for Turning Point, including a successful period managing the unique Roma Project, the UK’s only residential service offering structured support and treatment for those maintained on methadone. She moved on to become the Chief Executive of Cranstoun Drug Services, driving the development of that organisation from a residential service provider to one of the UK’s largest providers of drug services – residential, in the community and in prisons. She ended her working life as the Chief Executive of Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa, putting her energy and considerable skills to good use in children’s services. Her character is best summed up in an extract from an obituary that appeared in the Guardian shortly after her death. ‘Opinionated, determined and forceful, she could be scathing of anyone who stood in her way or did not share her strongly held belief in what she was trying to achieve. Yet she was never spiteful and was always willing to allow people to make their own mistakes and forgiving when they did so. And success to Alison was just something to move on from, to improve on.’
Eddie, who died in January 2006, was Alison’s partner and also died from cancer. His life and career was what might be described as the ‘stuff of legend’, ranging from an early history of problematic drug use and successful treatment, through social work training, drug service development and management, consultancy work and latterly balancing life as a publican with working as a part-time member of Sir (now Lord) David Ramsbotham’s team of prison inspectors, providing specialist input relating to drugs and alcohol during inspections. Amongst his many achievements were managing ROMA and, influenced by his experience in this role, developing the Griffin Project, which provided terminal and palliative care for those with HIV/AIDS. Eddie’s obituary also published in the Guardian goes some way to describing the Eddie many of us knew. ‘Passionate, knowledgeable and tenacious, he inspired and challenged people. He was a fearsome adversary, a sharp and funny colleague, and an indefatigable socialiser.’
The two brief descriptions above can only capture a fraction of the lives and the influence and impact both Alison and Eddie had on those who knew them, but we hope that through the annual lectures we can keep their memory alive and allow those who did know them to gather and share memories.