Everyone at Magic Bus was extremely saddened to hear the news that Tessa Jowell had lost her fight against brain cancer over the weekend.
Tessa was a great friend to Magic Bus and visited many of our programmes in India on a number of occasions. She will be remembered as an inspiring, thoughtful and generous woman who always took the time to spend time with Magic Bus children and hear directly from them about their lives, their challenges and their dreams.
Many staff in India have reached out to the UK office over the past 2 days to share memories of these visits and the impact that this had on them and the children and young people we support. We will always feel lucky to have had such strong support from such an amazing person who contributed so much to so many.
I first met Tessa in 2009. She had connected with Magic Bus as part of her desire to understand how sport could be used to transform communities. At the time she was Culture Minister and preparing to launch International Inspirations as part of the Olympic Legacy programme mandated by the UK government. I remember on her first trip to India I was immediately struck by her intense concern for almost every child we met and her desire to hear every story. This part of her personality was to define much of our future relationship, her innate desire to understand a situation thoroughly, apply thought and understand where she could add value – not just in Magic Bus nor in India but to the huge constituent she was to represent in the international development work that she had become responsible for. At the end of each day, I could see the intense sense of the unfairness of what she had seen and how important that was and whilst we all work within institutional frameworks, the needs of children should always be the first filter.
I think to Tessa, her annual trips to Magic Bus in many ways was a release, probably and possibly this was one of the only times in her substantial diary that she could define her time, provide the value she wanted to give and where she could choose anonymity. Tessa came many times to India, always at her own expense, always without fanfare. She must have known the potential "brand" benefit these trips could have leveraged, but she insisted this was her time and no media and no phones. I remember once the High Commission found out about one of her trips and sent an armed guard to the children's camp. She was furious and quickly dismissed the cavalcade, I’m sure much to the frustration of HM government! On another occasion she was called back for a cabinet meeting and had to choose between her return and a final session with some adolescent girls whom she had been mentoring that week. She made what she knew was the right choice.
Tessa became a good friend and my wife and family looked forward to her stays. The nature of her trips meant we saw a side of her life that many didn't – of someone who evidently was incredibility politically astute but could display such vulnerability. She had wisdom, energy, empathy and a strength of conviction I have rarely seen. We will miss her terribly but her legacy to me was the need to be take your fundamental core values to every conversation, be inclusive in the broadest sense and put your energy into fighting the battles you know will make the biggest impact. Our condolences to her family and particularly her children, Matthew and Jess whom she spoke of frequently and was immensely proud.