In Loving Memory of Gill Bradbury

16 October 2020

The International Network of People who use Drugs, Lee’s Rig Hub, Dristi Nepal and the European Network of People who Use Drugs express our deepest condolences to the family members, friends and colleagues of our friend and ally Gill Bradbury, who was a deeply committed and compassionate harm reduction practitioner.

Gill was one of the United Kingdom’s old school harm reduction activists dating back to her years of dedicated practice and professional development as a nurse and harm reduction practitioner. Gill was one of the original harm reduction nurses who championed the health and dignity of people who use drugs. She was a strong harm reduction advocate and a longstanding friend of the drug user rights movement. She was often called on by UK drug user activists to advise those designing new interventions or responding to client health issues within peer-led harm reduction. Gill was a passionate advocate for Drug Consumption Rooms and would have undoubtedly led the establishment of one in the UK had there been political will to do so.  She was passionate about women’s rights, and served as one of the first Board Members of the Women and Harm Reduction International Network (WHRIN).

The talents Gill displayed as Medical Services Coordinator at the International Harm Reduction Conference (IHRC) often went underappreciated, but were known to all who accessed these services. In the medical rooms at the IHRC, Gill’s nursing bed-side manner shined through. When Gill went to those conferences she planned and packed for all contingencies, her luggage always hundreds of pounds over the limit. If you were hung over and sicker than a dog from partying the night before, Gill was at your hotel room door early in the morning with Vitamin C and pain relief. If someone missed a shot and had an angry red swollen arm, Gill was ready with hot compresses. She made certain to check on everyone she treated and provided follow-up medical care. Everyone who received care from Gill at those conferences can attest to her loving, professional nature.  

Gil went above and beyond to ensure our community had access to humane and respectful harm reduction services. Given the countries and environments in which the conference was sometimes held, this was no easy feat, but Gill navigated the challenges with grace, skill and most importantly a wicked sense of humour. She not only provided services to our community but was a loyal friend and always willing to speak up for what was right. During HR17 in Montreal, Gill had the foresight to recognise that access to naloxone would be crucial at the conference due to the unreliable purity levels of heroin in North America. She worked tirelessly to ensure a supply of naloxone was available and accessible to conference attendees. 

Gill was also a seasoned traveller who was comfortable dealing with authority using the combination of her activist spirit and ward sister voice to assert her presence. One story she loved to tell was of a clash with airport security on returning from a trip. Airport security insisted on searching her so she dropped her baggy travellers clothes to stand naked in the arrivals hall leaving them to hurry her on, in embarrassment.

Gill will be lovingly remembered not only for her work in harm reduction, but as a friend and ally to all. Her love of travelling underpinned her connection with Nepal, as well as her personal support for Dristi Nepal, with its focus on women who use drugs.  Gill was always up for an adventure – quick smile and easy laugh and always the first to dive in when help was needed. When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015, Gill gathered her medical emergency and first aid supplies, packed her bags and flew to Nepal to assist. Her ferocity in her beliefs and her undaunted activist spirit knew no limits. Migrants and refugees were dear to her heart.  She monitored the Syrian refugee and migrant crises closely. As the human costs of the refugee and migrant crisis worsened, Gill enrolled to train for high seas open-water rescue missions. Even after she cracked a rib pulling herself from the North Atlantic into the inflatable Zodiac, while wearing tens of pounds of equipment she would not be deterred.

Gill was a loyal friend, an unrelenting activist and a deeply caring human whose empathy for others was written on everything she said or did. She will be remembered not only for her work in our communities but for the impact she left on the world as a whole. Our hearts go out to Gill’s family and to all who had the pleasure of calling her a friend.