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Events - London event celebrates the life of Dr Robert Sykes
15 February 2019

The late Dr Robert Sykes

Representatives of the leather industry gathered on February 11 for an event to celebrate the life and contribution to the industry of the British Leather Confederation (BLC) Dr Robert Sykes, who died in October.

More than 50 guests gathered at the Leathersellers’ Hall in the heart of the City of London for the occasion. Dr Sykes was fondly remembered by family, colleagues and friends in organised speeches and an open-floor session to recount anecdotes and memories.

Organised by his sons, Mark and John, the event also helped to raise funds for the National Leather Collection in Northampton of which their father had been a generous supporter throughout his life.

Robert Sykes was a well known figure in the UK and global leather industries and was deeply involved in research, manufacturing and industry association activity at national, European and global levels.

He earned a first-class degree in chemistry from Leeds University, where he also received the Leblanc Medal and won a scholarship to complete his doctorate. After graduating, the early part of his career was spent in Africa.

He returned to the UK in 1960 to lead the science department of the Leathersellers’ College, before joining the British Leather Manufacturers Research Association (BLMRA). In 1972, while at the BLMRA, he received the first Queens Award to Industry for an environmental topic, for research that led to the standard for removal of sulfides from process effluents. 

He was a director of the BLMRA from 1967 to 1984, when it merged with the British Leather Federation to form the BLC. He remained as chief executive of the BLC until his retirement in 1992.

He also played a significant role in the International Council of Tanners (ICT), where he served as secretary from 1995 to 1997 and was a vocal critic of export restrictions on raw materials. He was also president of the International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemist Societies (IULTCS), from 1984 to 1987.

His work at industry bodies also included a term as treasurer of the leather sector’s representative body in the European Union, COTANCE, and a spell on the Leather Panel of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation.

In 2007, he was the recipient of the first IULTCS Merit Award for Excellence in the Leather Industry. 

Information courtesy of Leatherbiz