Tributes to paid to former Brentwood Councillor Karen Chilvers

The world has lost another brilliant liberal. Former Brentwood Lib Dem Councillor and Parliamentary candidate Karen Chilvers died on Wednesday at just 51 years old. She had a stroke at the end of July and subsequent complications were just too much for her body to deal with.

We never met in real life, but for over a decade she has been a cheerful, supportive, friendly presence on Facebook and I loved reading about her adventures with her dogs Louis, Bailey and Tiffany.

Karen had had many health issues over the years and she would often talk about her frustrations about trying to get round an inaccessible world.

Karen was a much-loved Councillor in Brentwood between 2007 and 2021. I remember how devastated she was when she lost her seat in 2011, but she won it back the following year.

Her colleague David Kendall paid tribute to her in The Echo

Karen was a driving force of energy in the Brentwood Liberal Democrats over many years and encouraged a number of people to stand for the Council and helped to get them elected.

She was a champion for many vulnerable people in our community particularly on disability and equality issues.

She also helped many people on planning, housing and environmental matters.

“She led the campaign with residents to stop the housing development in Honeypot Lane and was a key figure in the campaign to stop “Go Ape” from changing the face of Thorndon Country Park.

Back in 2012, she appeared on ITV quiz show The Chase, as I wrote here:

Karen, pictured here with her dog Louis, was incredibly calm and cool as she answered the quick-fire questions. I was very impressed with her performance. She has written about her experience here.

She wrote for us back in 2013 when the BBC discovered her dog Bailey’s Twitter account. For Karen, her beloved dogs helped her become closer to her constituents. Being an approachable councillor was incredibly important to her.

I was  elected to Brentwood Council in 2007 with people knowing I was an animal lover and I always wanted to be the most approachable of councillors, so my animals have always featured on my website and in my work because I want them to know I am “one of them” and not a remote career politician.  I’ve always picked up casework when walking Louis and his predecessors around the ward.

In 2013, she rescued Bailey who was in a terrible state and gave him a very happy life.

Hornchurch Animal Rescue put him on Facebook on 27th March – he had been picked up as a matted, dirty stray with an eye, urine and skin infection was old and underweight and was due to be put to sleep immediately. They stepped in and had him signed over to them and I picked him up at 10pm that night from the dog warden. Couldn’t quite believe I had done it as I walked out of a stranger’s house on a cold dark London night with a smelly Gollum like creature under my arm!

I was supposed to keep him over Easter whilst he was assessed – to be honest we didn’t expect him to make it to the weekend as he was in such a state.  But, he stayed, the cats and Louis grew used to him and we fell in love!

And Karen gave the lovely boy a voice on Twitter:

He started tweeting for fun, but also to highlight the need for fosterers and adopters for pound dogs who face death through no fault of their own and older rescue dogs and cats that can sometimes be overlooked. He also tries to help find lost dogs and cats, tweets about animal welfare issues and general dog stuff. the only subject “off limits” is politics – yes he’ll support us and put a poster up but he’s not a political animal…he’s come here for his retirement. His job really is to give me a cuddle after campaigning and late meetings!

He’s very thoughtful and will often give out a #DailyBailey tip or two on how to procure sossiges. he’s also built up a network of tweeting dogs to chat to including a Lhasa Ahpso who lives in a castle and Clapton Terrier of the Border Terrier Posse!

In 2016, she and her friend Gill Eastgate started the Tzu Kingdom series of books about a magical kingdom run by Shih-Tzus. Last year, when John and Johannes were on Strictly, she and Gill wrote about that they had got there first:

But we were years ahead of the BBC! Back in 2015 on Twitter Stanley and Bailey were strictly contestants!!

And when Bailey injured his neck (for real) Paddy paw-stepped up and took his place until he got better.

It was so important to them that the universe of their books was inclusive:

We wrote the book series as we would like to see the world: fair; tolerant and equal where everyone has equal opportunity and not disadvantaged by their gender, breed, disability or sexuality.

Early in the story we meet Colin with his disability and in Santa Paws Land we meet Scottish Terrier Jock in his wheelchair that certainly does not hold him back. Remember that Colin has two dads too. It’s an ethos through the book.

My heart goes out to Karen’s mum and sister and all those who were close to her.

Please feel free to share your memories of Karen n the comments.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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4 Comments

  • Lloyd Harris 3rd Sep '22 - 12:45pm

    Karen was an amazing person, I will miss her. Sending my love to her family

  • Neil Fawcett 3rd Sep '22 - 1:53pm

    I was very sad to hear this news. I worked with Karen for a few years when Brentwood & Essex were part of my remit in my ALDC role.

    She was deeply committed to her community and to liberal values and was a unique character. She was always very welcoming and made sure I was properly looked after whenever I turned up.

    She is a big loss to Brentwood and the party.

    Sincere condolences to her family and friends.

  • Ann-Marie Barker 3rd Sep '22 - 4:32pm

    This is such sad news. I never met Karen but we followed each other on Twitter and I followed her loss and then regaining of her Council seat. She was clearly so committed to her community and to her lovely dogs and cats.

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