Craig Methven, former Trading Officer at Amnesty International, died on 20 May aged 54.
During his time at Amnesty (1985 to 2003) he helped grow income from merchandise, in particular campaigning t-shirts, clothing, calendars and greetings cards. He developed the campaigning organisation’s first online shop.
His business sense helped ensure that AIUK weathered downturns in the economy, continuing to generate income when several other charities’ trading arms closed or cut back on activities.
Attracting artists and encouraging future fundraisers
Craig attracted a wealth of talented artists and studios, keen to secure their designs in the prestigious Amnesty trading catalogue. He was also successful in securing celebrities to introduce the catalogue. Sitting next to him in the Amnesty fundraising team for five years, there were numerous occasions when I picked up his phone to speak to the likes of the instantly recognisable Patrick Stewart, Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise.
Craig attracted and more importantly encouraged many able volunteers, keen to work with him on the Amnesty catalogue. Many have gone on to make fundraising their career including at least one Fundraising Director. He remained in contact with many of these fundraisers and artists, including Harry Venning (‘Clare in the Community’) as friends.
Craig was a true friend, loyal and supportive. He was a socialist and shop steward at Amnesty, standing up for the rights of staff and volunteers. He was cheerful and calm, and always saw the positive where he could.
Death Row correspondence
Amnesty wasn’t just a job for him. He was committed to the organisation’s work in both promoting and securing human rights. I do hope he noted, just before he died, that Fiji had become the 99th nation to abolish the death penalty. Twenty years ago far fewer countries were committed to the notion that they could punish some of their citizens with death for certain selected offences.
Craig spent several years writing to Carl, a prisoner facing the death penalty in the USA. Every time one of the handwritten letters arrived on yellow lined paper he did his best to respond supportively. Carl and his fellow prisoners had turned to carving little wooden boxes which they hoped could be sold to raise funds for Amnesty via the catalogue. Craig had the hard task of explaining that they didn’t meet the quality standards required to make it into the UK catalogue.
Carl was executed after at least one last-minute stay. In these days when charity fundraisers are criticised by some newspapers for being too commercial, too successful, too efficient, and too well-paid, I wish these critics could have seen Craig’s letters to Carl, and experienced the last hours when Craig knew that the execution was inevitable.
Bringing charity staff and volunteers together
Craig’s ability to bring people together was remarkable. He and Daryl Upsall, now an international fundraising consultant and agency head, arranged a series of charity Olympics events and quizzes for staff at many London charities in the late 80s and early 90s.
Contribution to UK Fundraising
Craig remained my friend after we had both left Amnesty. He set up a digital agency with fellow former Amnesty colleagues, and worked extensively with charities, schools and other community projects.
He worked for 10 years for UK Fundraising, providing content services and support. Indeed, Craig’s name appears throughout the website, and will continue to do so, as the creator and editor of many posts and pages. Craig and his colleagues were instrumental in helping the site move forward to use content management system Drupal for several years.
He was the co-creator of Restaurant Spy, an early online restaurant review website and community, which attracted international contributors.
Singer in Dundee band
Craig’s funeral last week in Tunbridge Wells – not the first place you’d expect a charity worker with left-wing views to be based – was packed. We heard tributes from friends and colleagues to his kindness, passionate desire to help anyone with their problems, and his sociable and calm approach to any apparent problem.
Craig loved music, food and friends. He was the singer in post-Punk Dundee band, The Scrotum Poles in the 1970s. You try getting hold of a copy of one of their singles these days and you’ll realise the status this band still holds. There are plans for a reunion gig later this year. He also performed in The Summerbees.
Family first and last
Far ahead even of his commitment to social change and human rights though was his love for his family. They came first, and his five children’s brave tributes to him at the funeral were a measure of the man and how he had inspired them.
Craig was unfailingly welcoming and positive: he was the first colleague to welcome me at Amnesty, and his advice and support was always valuable and often right. I’ll always remember his bear-hug greetings, his frequent suggestion of ‘don’t be daft’, and I’ll remain proud that he referred to me as ‘comrade’.
His family invited friends to celebrate his life by donating to The Trussell Trust to support its food bank projects throughout the UK.