We are so shocked and sad that our friend and colleague Leon Mexter died suddenly last week. All our thoughts and very best wishes are with his family and his colleagues at Youth Focus North East. He leaves an enormous hole in the youth work world, with his unique mix of passion, fury and strategic thinking.
Leon was fundamental in the creation of the Network of Regional Youth Work Units. He firmly believed that local youth work organisations and local young people need regional voices and cannot rely solely on national (usually London-based) organisations to represent their interests in policy and funding forums. He was clear that you need to inhabit a place and be part of what is going on there to fully understand the complexity of what makes youth work work.
That’s why he worked hard to establish the Network of RYWUs as a key part of the infrastructure of youth work. That’s why he transformed Youth Focus North East into an organisation that both delivers innovative youth work and provides a strategic voice for youth work in the North East, with influence across England. Those of us who have worked with Leon in the Network know that he tests every new proposal or development in policy affecting young people against a set of principles that start with ‘how will it benefit young people – and especially young people in the North East?’ We all benefited from his knowledge, support and friendship.
Those of us who have worked closely with Leon for many years – and many of those who have only met him rarely – will continue to ask ourselves ‘What would Leon think and do?’ as we engage with policy, funding and practice in the youth sector. His voice and influence will always be in our heads – but goodness, we will miss him being with us.