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December 13, 2022

Harrogate Theatre remembers Jim Clark

Our former chair and Honorary President, Jim Clark, passed away on Friday 9 December. Here our Chief Executive, David Bown, pays tribute to him.

Our former chair and Honorary President, the wonderful Jim Clark, passed away last week, not long after his 75th birthday. He paid us a visit on the day of his birthday as he was soon to move back to his native Scotland to be near his family.

Jim was an extraordinary servant to Harrogate for 25 years. He moved here in 1997 and first served as a Borough Councillor in 2000. He also played vital roles for the County Council in both health and education up until last year. One of my proudest moments was being a guest at his mayor making ceremony in 2014, which then allowed him to play host to the Royal Family during the Grand Depart, over that magnificent weekend when the eyes of the world were on Harrogate.

Outside of his political life Jim was also a governor at many schools including The Grammar and Rossett Acre, he was also chair of The Little Red Bus Company and of course Harrogate Theatre. Many of these roles ran concurrent and how he managed to fit it all in alongside his accountancy work is nothing short of miraculous.

Jim and I both came to the theatre at roughly the same time in 2005, when the organisation was struggling financially. He took over as Chair in 2006 and stepped down in 2018. With his astute financial acumen, Jim supported the senior staff to stabilise the finances and move the organisation into a new era.

One of his first decisions was to galvanise capital funds raised for a much needed refurbishment. The theatre building on Oxford Street hadn’t seen any major work done since the mid 1970’s and was on its knees in terms of facilities and comfort.

In 2007, in partnership with the Borough Council, we embarked upon an ambitious overhaul of the magnificent main auditorium. The building was closed to the public and everything was stripped out. New heating and electrical systems were installed and the auditorium was beautifully restored to its former Victorian splendour. Much research was undertaken to analyse the original livery and colour schemes. Results concluded that there had been six decorations of the theatre in the first century of its existence, but its original colours were terracotta and teal, which is what we have today.

The project came to a close in October 2007 and we reopened with a production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus performed by Harrogate Dramatic Society. It was a great autumn and winter season, partly due to Jim’s determination and vision.

In subsequent years we remodelled the entire artistic programme and introduced co-productions with other theatres, the comedy festival, the artist development hub, the education programme and in 2014 we took on artistic responsibilities for both the Royal Hall and The Convention Centre, making us one of the busiest Box Office’s in the Country and the third most successful theatre in Yorkshire, behind Leeds and Sheffield. It was a tremendous journey and we really couldn’t have done it without Jim Clark.

Jim was intelligent, witty, driven and one of the most caring people I have ever had the good fortune to know and work with. On behalf of everyone at the theatre, I’d like to thank Jim Clark for creating a legacy we can all be proud of. He was a dear friend and I’ll miss him so much.

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