Chris Watson, 1940 - 2019
Chris was a mentor and guiding hand to Housing Vision and especially to its Director, Richard Turkington, from its inception in 2001. Chris began his career as a geographer at Kings College, University of London and following posts at the University of Sussex and with the civil service in Edinburgh, he moved to Birmingham as a Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS). He was Director of CURS from 1987-93 and continued to work there for the next 45 years, he never really retired. Following its dissolution, he helped to maintain the CURS ethos by actively supporting the establishment of the ‘Housing and Communities Research Group’ and its associated Network.
Chris was appointed the University’s Director of International Affairs from 1984-94 and Director of the Japan Centre from 1993-2002 where he continued to build links with Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and across South East Asia which remain to this day.
He was an active member of the European Network for Housing Research from its inception in the 1980s, attending annual conferences and coordination committee meetings, and winning friends across the continent with his understated diplomacy. Until 2018, he was a co-ordinator of the Working Group on Housing in Developing Countries and supported the development of the Asia-Pacific Network for Housing Research.
He was an outstanding academic with a keen awareness of the importance of engaging with policy and practice. He was actively involved with many locally based housing associations but retained a critical detachment and recognised that ‘big is not always beautiful’. He remained an advocate of urban renewal, recently reminding UK and European audiences of the adverse consequences for public health and social equality of not renewing our older housing stock.
There is an absolute consistency in the tributes paid to him from across the world and these quotes capture some of his finest qualities:
‘Chris had a quiet determination and an absolute commitment to the highest professional standards’.
‘Chris was renowned for his friendliness, his warmth, his calm and his kindness, especially through his support for students and colleagues’.
‘Chris is one of those rare and treasured people whose gentle manner, kindness and advice I found to be always uplifting’.
‘Diplomacy and dinners are something I associate with Chris’.
Chris enjoyed life and especially travel and good food, he had a great sense of fun and loved company, he was a gentleman and a gentle man who has touched so many lives.