Shirley West: ‘Irreplaceable’ community figure dies

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Shirley West, treasurer of Brighton Women’s Centre, Pride volunteer and all-round treasure, died suddenly on Thursday 19th October at the age of 56.’s Torsten Hojer documents some of the touching tributes to the inspirational lady.

No-one who knew or worked with Shirley remains untouched by her passion, drive and absolute belief in the potential of Brighton Women’s Centre to support women of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances.

Tough when she needed to be, Shirley’s modesty consistently belied her incredible determination and achievements. Her many friends and colleagues describe her as an inspiring, authentic, kind, self-effacing woman who was reliable, up-front and prepared to take risks.

Her warm sense of humour, roll-ups and extraordinary talent for property speculation also linger in our collective memories. Shirley’s astonishing capacity to turn extreme crisis into opportunity combined with her vision, energy and spirit to enable a more visible and empowering Women’s Centre to emerge from the basement into the light.

Her joy in its progress will continue to resonate, inspiring all of us. As a colleague, mentor and friend, Shirley West is simply irreplaceable.

Sheila McWattie, on behalf of Brighton Women’s Centre

Shirley loved being part of a community and wanted every woman in Brighton Hove to know about the Brighton Women’s Centre. Her determination to make things happen was legendary – she was also truly kind, with an irrepressible sense of humour. Shirley was at the heart of a wonderful network of family and friends, neighbours and colleagues. To say that she will be terribly missed doesn’t even begin to describe the loss of this remarkable woman.

Al Brookes

Working tirelessly for women and LGBT people, Shirley was one of the vital pillars of support for communities across this city. Shirley’s positive attitude overcame adversity, bonding these communities in a powerful, unforgettable way.

Michelle Pooley, ex-co-ordinator, Brighton Women’s Centre

It is very hard to come to terms with the reality that Shirley West is no longer with us. Over the years Shirley has always been here, there and just about everywhere. Whilst totally devoted to Brighton Women’s Centre, Shirley also committed her energy for several years to Brighton Pride, championing Pride Women’s Tent at Preston Park, and playing a crucial role in developing it into one of the event’s most popular and important attractions. As a tenacious Pride committee member, Shirley always delivered right through to the end.

Pragmatic and modest, she shunned the spotlight, despite being someone who deserved bundles of praise and attention. Shirley enjoyed making people smile and laugh even during the most heated meetings; she put up gazebos in pouring rain for dogs and their gay owners at Pride Dog Show, and loved nagging others to get on the property ladder. Goodbye, Shirley – we will all miss you and will protect the legacies you have left us.

PJ Aldred, operations manager, Pride in Brighton Hove.

There is a Book of Condolences at the Brighton Women’s Centre, 72 High Street, Kemptown, Brighton BN2 1RP. 01273 698036.