Former art theatre director tributes

TRIBUTES are today being paid to actor, author and former Ipswich Arts Theatre artistic director, John Southworth.The 74-year-old, who devoted his life to his family and his craft, died from a stroke early Sunday morning at Ipswich Hospital.

TRIBUTES are today being paid to actor, author and former Ipswich Arts Theatre artistic director, John Southworth.

The 74-year-old, who devoted his life to his family and his craft, died from a stroke early Sunday morning at Ipswich Hospital.

Mr Southworth, of Berners Street, Ipswich, worked at the Tower Street Arts Theatre during the 1961-62 season as an actor.

The Blackpool-born actor then came back twice more before putting down roots in the town, taking control of the theatre in education programme and finally becoming the Arts Theatre's resident artistic director in 1970.

A good friend of Sir Alec Guinness, who he met while they were appearing in a West End play, Mr Southworth was the driving force behind productions for the last nine years of the theatre's life.

Rosemary, his wife of more than 45 years, said today: "John was a very gentle and kind man. He was very much loved by his family.

Most Read

"He was terrifically dedicated to his work. He put everything into it. He loved the Arts Theatre very much indeed and was saddened when it was discontinued as a theatre."

Mr Southworth was also heavily involved in aiding the late Mother Theresa to raise money for leprosy sufferers in India.

He was also the chairman of the English branch of the Order of Charity, a leprosy relief organisation.

Speaking in 1999 about his time at the Arts Theatre, Mr Southworth said: "Ipswich was one of the top half dozen repertory theatres in the country.

"What made us so special was that unlike most theatres which did weekly rep we changed our plays every three or four weeks so that you could actually have time to rehearse properly as well as get a decent run of performances.

"Certainly in the old days good rep theatres around the country were turning out plays that could equal if not better anything you would see in London and the Ipswich Arts Theatre was at the top of that league."

In addition to his theatrical work Mr Southworth also had three books published – Medieval English Minstrel, Fools and Jesters at the English Court and Shakespeare the Player.

As well as his wife, Mr Southworth also leaves three children, John, Theresa and William, and five grandchildren.

A requiem mass for Mr Southworth will be held at St Pancras Catholic Church in Tacket Street, Ipswich, next Wednesday, at 2pm.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter