Graeme Riley was one of the best; a warm-hearted, generous, committed man, who approached life with a wry smile and a gentle humour. I first got to know him in the early 1980’s, before I founded acta, when I worked for Avon County Community Leisure Department, and Graeme was an Area Officer. He was so welcoming and supportive, even then; and so when acta began, and we were developing projects in the Kingswood area, it was to Graeme’s door that I beat a path, constantly bending his ear about the benefits of youth and community theatre, and looking for support and funding. Graeme, being Graeme, listened and heard, and duly supported the various projects, including Kingswood Youth Theatre, work at Summit Youth Centre, and ‘We Face the Dawn’, the Kingswood Community Play. Graeme was so behind this project, and we even persuaded him to be our Front of House manager, a task he did with great charm and professionalism (and he never let me forget what a favour he’d done me!).
Graeme continued to support acta, all through our existence, joining our Council of Management, becoming a committed and extremely effective Chair for several years, before ill-health forced him to retire earlier this year. He gave so much to the company, for so many years, with great diligence, intelligence and with an infectious good humour that blessed every event and meeting he attended. He is such a great loss; not only to acta, but of course to his lovely wife Stella and his family. At his funeral the other day, it was standing room only, as hundreds of people turned out to mark his passing. We filed out at the end to ‘Always look on the bright side of life’, a lovely last gesture from this lovely man. We will miss him; I will miss him so much, my friend and mentor.
Neil Beddow, Artistic Director.