Regarded as one of the most valued and respected employees of the HQ Theatres Group, Louise Clifford has died after a two-year battle with cancer.
For the past 17 years, she had been theatre director at the Beck Theatre in Hayes, where her energy, enthusiasm and inspirational leadership had given the theatre a new lease of life.
Julian Russell, chief executive of HQ Theatres, said the success of the Beck in recent years was “down to Louise’s passion for the community and her innate understanding of the world of regional theatre”.
Having grown up in Witney, Oxfordshire, where she continued to live, Clifford began her career in the theatre at the age of 19 as personal assistant to the manager of the Oxford Apollo. On her second day in the job, she was thrown in at the deep end, having to organise a round of press interviews with Jeffrey Archer. Former colleagues remember her being unfazed by the challenge.
In 1993, she moved from Oxford to the Edinburgh Playhouse, also for Apollo Leisure, where she was appointed deputy manager before transferring back to Oxford as general manager, a post she held until 2002. By then, Apollo had morphed into Clear Channel Entertainment and Clifford moved to the Beck as general manager.
In 2004, she won the Clear Channel manager of the year award, recognising her commitment to the company, her team leadership and her achievement in connecting the venue to the community.
The newly formed HQ Theatres – part of the Qdos Entertainment Group – took over the management of the Beck from Live Nation in 2007, and Clifford was promoted to theatre director. Sustained by her trademark Diet Coke, Clifford created a warm and welcoming environment for audiences, artists and staff alike. The hundreds of young people who participated in the Summer Youth Projects at the Beck during Clifford’s tenure will also remember her with great warmth.
Last year, the Beck was named venue of the year in the HQ Theatres Celebration of Excellence.
Chris McGuigan, marketing director of Qdos, said: “Louise’s tenacity and spirit, alongside a calm and inspiring nature, was evident in everything she did. Her humility belied her experience and expertise. She will be sorely missed by all those who had the pleasure of knowing her.”
Louise Clifford was born on July 4, 1970, and died on February 18, aged 48. She is survived by her mother and four siblings.