John Lambert obituary

Other lives: Impresario and local politician who founded a community theatre in Bradford

My friend John Lambert, who has died aged 75 of cancer, was a director, performer and founder of the Q20 community theatre project in Bradford. He was also a Labour councillor for seven years and was among those who masterminded the restoration and refurbishment of the city’s Alhambra theatre.

John established Q20 in 1969 with the aim of bringing theatre to a wider audience. It started in his parents’ house and grew to become a thriving company and business. John created stage productions throughout Yorkshire and ran a full-time theatre-in-education programme, visiting local schools.

He was born in Baildon, West Yorkshire, to Joan (nee Heaton) and Hugh Lambert. When he was young, the family moved to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), where Hugh worked as a hydrogeologist.

John attended the Gilbert Rene school in the capital Lusaka. On holiday back in Britain during the mid-1950s he saw two films, The Red Balloon and Disney’s Peter Pan. With no TV and little radio in Lusaka, he was spellbound. When the family returned to Yorkshire in 1965, John attended the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama in London.

After he left, he was determined to start a theatre company in Bradford, which had no rep and no theatre provision for children and young people. Along with four friends from college and with the help of his parents, sister, Jill, and brother, Michael, John took over the family home to make costumes and create sets.

He persuaded local authorities to back his idea of taking theatre into schools and his project soon grew. The company performed in public areas, shopping malls, galas and festivals and took a residency at the Gateshead Metro centre. On the education side, his group of actors went into schools every day and in the holidays performed in theatres.

Over the years John employed thousands of actors, many of whom went on to have successful careers, including Robin Herford, the director of The Woman in Black; Simon Jones, who played Ford Prefect in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; Joanne Good, the BBC radio presenter; and Kevin Hubbard, a television producer.

In 1980 John was elected to Bradford city council and four years later became its chair of education and arts. In all he served for seven years, championing diversity as well as being a driving force in the restoration of the Alhambra theatre, which re-opened in 1986.

He also continued to perform himself, particularly as a clown, and with his clowning partner, Ros Ottery, represented Britain in an international clowning festival in Japan in 1989.

John eventually realised his long-held dream of finding a permanent home for Q20 and a community creative hub. In 2013 he obtained a machine shed in Shipley and converted it into rehearsal rooms, studios and offices. The “Hub” has supported numerous groups including photographers, painters, film-makers, potters, a bagpipe maker and a casting director.

John never retired but continued to work at the Hub.

In 1978 he married Jacquie Mosley, and she survives him along with their children, Benjamin and Charlotte, his stepson, Alexander, five grandchildren, William, Matilda, Solomon, Theo and Jasper, and his sister, Jill.

Tony McHale

The GuardianTramp

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