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Karen Simpson, Bury St Edmunds theatre boss, loses cancer battle

PUBLISHED: 17:21 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:21 07 January 2020

Karen Simpson, CEO and artistic director of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, who lost her battle against cancer on Saturday  Photo: Aaron Weight

Karen Simpson, CEO and artistic director of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, who lost her battle against cancer on Saturday Photo: Aaron Weight

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Karen Simpson, the artistic director and CEO of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, has died following a two year battle with cancer.

Karen spent Christmas with family before her condition quickly went downhill. She died on Saturday January 4. Karen leaves her husband, Tony Kelly and daughters Sammy, Katie and Jenny.

Karen announced at the beginning of December that she was stepping down to spend more time with her family following the diagnosis but had hoped to stay in touch with the theatre until a successor had been appointed.

Roger Quince, chairman of Theatre Royal Board said: "This is indeed an extremely sad day for myself, Adrian Grady and all staff, volunteers and cast at Theatre Royal. Karen will be sorely missed as both a colleague and a friend. Our deepest sympathy and thoughts are with Tony and the girls."

Karen's husband Tony Kelly posted the following message on Facebook: "This is probably the worst message I have ever had to write, but with so many friends on Karen Simpson's phone, I wanted to let everyone know that after 33 years of happy marriage Karen has lost her two year battle against cancer and passed away on Saturday surrounded by family and friends. I cannot find the right words to express our feelings adequately or to express what a wonderful person she was and how lucky I was that she was such a large part of my life.

"We will let everyone know the funeral details later. Karen asked for no flowers but if you wanted to donate to cancer research that would be appreciated."

Actress daughter Sammy Kelly added: "She was such a strong woman who inspired and touched so many peoples lives. She was a friend to many and so passionate about her work." Katie Kelly also posted: "She touched so many peoples lives through her theatre work, and the messages she received from people, when she told them that she was ill, meant the world to her."

Karen joined the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds in 2013, when there was a real danger of closure as it battled significant financial difficulties. Karen's vision was to create a theatre for everyone and steer a new and more sustainable business model. In Karen's own words she "leaves the organisation knowing that that is exactly what is being achieved".

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