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Regional theatre leader John Blackmore dies aged 77

John Blackmore (centre) with cast members from The Rise and Fall of Little Voice in 2012 at Bolton Octagon.
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John Blackmore, who led flagship regional theatres in Manchester, Bolton, Newcastle, Leicester and Lancaster, has died at the age of 77.

His death earlier today was announced on the website of Bolton’s Octagon Theatre, where Blackmore’s 12-year tenure as chief executive from 2000 rescued a venue under threat of closure and helped transform it into one of the UK’s most consistently successful theatres outside London.

In a joint statement, the Octagon’s current chief executive and artistic director Roddy Gauld and Elizabeth Newman said: “John was one of the Octagon’s most indelible characters. Witty, irrepressible, deeply loyal and fiercely passionate, he always left a huge impression on those who met him.”

They added: “He took charge of the Octagon at a time of hardship when its future was in doubt. He determinedly rebuilt the finances, ambitions and morale of the organisation, and served as the longest leader in the theatre’s history.”

Blackmore first made an impact in the late 1960s as artistic director of the Library Theatre, Manchester before forming Birmingham’s first community theatre company, Second City Theatre, in 1974.

He was variously artistic director of the Dukes Playhouse, Lancaster, founder and chief executive of the TyneWear Theatre Company (now Northern Stage) in Newcastle and chief executive of Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre.

He also spent several years as an executive producer with the English Shakespeare Company and a producer with Bill Kenwright Ltd.

Among early tributes on social media, Jon Gilchrist, executive director of Home, Manchester, described Blackmore as “one of the great champions of regional theatre”.

He added: “John was an inspiration and a friend – I have so much to thank him for. The legacy of his 50+ year career will live on.”

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