In mid December, we received the very sad news that a former member of The Glass-House staff, Rebecca Maguire, had passed away, and last week, she was laid to rest by her family and friends with a moving celebration of her extraordinary life. We at The Glass-House want to pay tribute to her as one of the key figures in shaping the organisation that we are today, and as a wonderful friend to those of us who worked with her within our charity and through her work both in the UK and abroad.
I first met Rebecca back in 2006, in the period when The Glass-House was devolving from an action research project and launching as an independent charity. At that time, she was working with London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange (LCACE), now The Culture Capital Exchange (TCCE), which had approached The Glass-House to develop a workshop for an event they were planning. This workshop, which we first designed with her support and input, would become our Design by Consensus workshop, which The Glass-House still uses within a variety of contexts today.
Rebecca and I clicked working together on that initiative, and we stayed in contact. When the opportunity arose to bring her in on a consultancy basis to support our work, we jumped at it, and later, she would join the staff team in 2008 as our Senior Projects Manager and then later as Head of Programmes, until she left the UK in 2012 to live and work on sustainable development in Zanzibar.
Perhaps Rebecca’s greatest legacy at The Glass-House is the role that action research and knowledge exchange play in our work. Having come to us from an arts and academic context, Rebecca brought with her a sense of the opportunity that collaboration with higher education could offer our work, and together we applied for and secured funding to support knowledge exchange projects, a collaborative PhD with the Bureau of Design Research at University of Sheffield, and our first co-designed collaborative project with our now Strategic Partners, The Design Group at The Open University.
Rebecca kept collaborative action research and knowledge exchange high on The Glass-House agenda, and embedded in the whole team the importance of capturing and sharing learning.
I have a particularly fond memory of the two of us spending hours together collating our research findings on community-led projects to refurbish community buildings. The two of us sat together in the meeting room, moving about bits of printed text and images to storyboard what would become Making Buildings Work for our Community: Design Refurbishment and Retrofit, a publication we produced for the Asset Transfer Unit. Rebecca had a great eye, was both challenging and productive at getting to the nub of what we were trying to say, and we both enjoyed the tousle of trying to distil down a huge amount of content into a compact accessible publication that would inform many of the Glass-House publications and other resources to follow.
Rebecca was highly principled and demanding of her colleagues, but also a warm and caring friend. She had a dry sense of humour, a quirky laugh, and we talked and talked about life as well as work. She was enormously proud of her two sons, and we followed their progress from afar through her anecdotes.
She saw me through a lot in our years of working together, and I trusted her opinion more than that of most others. Together we tackled the challenges that came with seismic shifts in the policy and funding landscape, with changing relationships with existing partners and with forging new partnerships, with the challenges of introducing and nurturing new talent within The Glass-House team. She also saw me and other members of our team through illness, personal challenges and indeed through loss.
When Rebecca left The Glass-House in 2012, it was to embark upon a thrilling new adventure, heading with her husband to his native Zanzibar to set up an eco hotel, Panga Chumvi Beach Resort, using sustainable building methods and permaculture. She went on to become a trusted advisor to the government while there, and helped establish and champion Sustainable East Africa.
Rebecca had recently returned to England, and sadly, she passed away unexpectedly through a sudden illness. She leaves behind her husband, their two beloved sons and two grandchildren.
She also leaves behind a great legacy at The Glass-House, and a strong presence in all of us who had the pleasure of working with her.
Farewell, my friend. You will be missed and remembered with both fondness and enormous gratitude for what you gave us all.