Huw Lewis remembers an IWA activist who greatly influenced policy making within the north Wales community
Last December we were very saddened to hear of the death of Jeni Winstanley, after a long and unremittingly courageous battle with cancer. Over many years Jeni, who was born in 1947, had made a substantial contribution to the work and activities of the IWA’s North Wales Branch. In recent months she had embarked on a major project on the future of the north for a forthcoming conference. We remember her with great affection, with awe at her talent and ferocious commitment to whatever project she was engaged on. Above all we remember the humour, the warmth and the generosity of her personality.
As the IWA’s North Wales Secretary, working with Jeni and being in her company in many meetings over the past years has been a deeply enriching experience. Jeni’s presence guaranteed discussions of the highest quality and a commitment to an honest and thorough search for answers to difficult questions, all in an atmosphere of fun. She was the consummate professional and a delightful person to work with.
We first met in February 2008, at a committee meeting of the North Wales Branch, which she was hosting in the Management Centre at Bangor University where she was Director of Business Research. Her previous career had been as an Independent Consultant specialising in Health Care.
As she talked to us about her work at that meeting we were to be introduced to the ‘Jeni way of doing things’. It was subsequently to make an important contribution to the Institute’s work in the north – a rigorous, methodological and analytical approach to any topic; the absolute need for reliable data, from as many sources as possible; her generous willingness to work in tandem with whoever, as long as it helped to achieve the desired goals; a wish at all times for the best possible outcomes, no matter how difficult the issue at hand; and, above all, the warmth and good humour of her presence.
The following list of some of the topics she was working on in recent times reveals the broad range of her interests, her punishing workload, together with her extraordinary productivity:
- Demand for engineers in north west Wales.
- Impact of the proposed primary school closure programme in Gwynedd.
- Attitudes and perceptions of the north Wales business community to the business advice and support services provided by the local authorities.
- Scoping Study on the economic impact of Bangor University.
- Literature review of leadership and management in Wales.
- Flintshire Housing Needs Assessment.
- Denbighshire employment study.
- Socio-economic impact of establishing air services between Anglesey and Dublin.
- Spatial planning analysis of knowledge-based clusters in north-west Wales and their inter-relationship with Bangor University
In addition Jeni undertook the initial scoping study for Bangor University’s ‘Pontio’ Arts and Innovation Centre, a groundbreaking project that has since attracted over £30 million of external funding. The Centre will be a melting pot where the arts and sciences meet, a generator of new ideas, and a powerhouse of community regeneration. All were close to Jeni’s heart.
She demonstrated similar passion as a valued member of the Spotlight North Wales conference team according to Nia Lynn Jones of Momentwm and Lead Organiser of Spotlight. Jeni saw the annual event as an important date in the region’s calendar – bringing representatives from the public, private and third sectors together for a day to consider the future prosperity of north Wales. Jeni contributed ideas based on her own research and influenced the programme delivered at the event. She also generously mobilised her contact-base and assisted in bringing sponsors and supporters on board to ‘make it happen’.
Even late last year Jeni was motoring the Institute’s recent ideas for a programme of activities for north Wales, playing a leading role in identifying themes and topics, identifying and contacting a variety of possible contributors from among her huge network of contacts and teasing out in her incomparable way all the issues we were likely to face. And always there was that consistent demand for reliable data!
Jeni was a doer not a talker. She understood the challenges and opportunities that face north Wales and wished to see an immediate plan of action. She will be sorely missed by her friends in the IWA and the wider business community across north Wales. But her remarkable contribution will be remembered.