Tributes paid as inspirational Sheffield adult educator dies aged 72

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Tributes have been paid to an inspirational Sheffield adult educator and community worker who devoted his life to helping people overcome educational and social disadvantage.

Graham Birkin, aged 72, died peacefully at home in Heeley with his family by his side on July 7 after a long illness.

Born in Southend, Graham came to the Steel City in 1967 to study at the University of Sheffield before qualifying as a further education teacher in London.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He later returned to Sheffield, however, raising a family and spending the rest of his working life in adult education.

Graham Birkin died last month after a long illness.Graham Birkin died last month after a long illness.
Graham Birkin died last month after a long illness.

While working for Sheffield Council in the 1980s, Graham became team leader on ‘Take Ten’, a groundbreaking educational leave programme which enabled low-grade manual, clerical and craft workers to take 10 days off work to learn without losing pay.

Steve Bond, from Hathersage, worked with Graham, having first met him as a student. They remained friends for the next 50 years.

He said: “It is clear from all the tributes that Graham was someone who touched a lot of people’s lives.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“He was very good at giving people confidence and helping them understand things they might previously have thought to be too complicated.”

Graham also enabled disadvantaged children to access outdoor pursuits through the Flysheet Camps charity and worked with refugees to help them adapt to life in Britain.

Masoba Kromah, who joined one of Graham’s Workers’ Educational Association courses as a resettled refugee, remembered him for listening to students and ‘trying to make sense of our complex life stories’.

The classes and visits Graham organised were, she said, ‘vital to our integration, being new to the country’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After a stroke in 2013, Graham sadly developed dementia but tried to remain active and took part in a Palestinian fundraising event in Meersbrook Park just two weeks before he died.

A private family memorial took place last month but a bigger celebration of Graham’s life and achievements is planned for next year.

He is survived by his partner of 27 years, Jan Jude, his children, Jack and Ruth, from his marriage to Jenny Owen, grandchildren Eben, Luca and Frieda, and his sister Anne.

Editor's message: Thank you for reading this story. The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on our advertisers and thus our revenues. The Star is more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism. You can subscribe here for unlimited access to Sheffield news and information online. Every subscription helps us continue providing trusted, local journalism and campaign on your behalf for our city.

Related topics: