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Home News Tribute to Lindsay Kemp

Tribute to Lindsay Kemp

Home News Tribute to Lindsay Kemp

The team at Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven, was saddened to learn of the death of Lindsay Kemp, influential British dancer, actor, mime artist, choreographer and teacher, in Italy on 24 August 2018.

Several of his costume designs are on display in the Reimaged Rosehill building, which opened last summer following a £3m redevelopment. In addition, a Creative Connections project is under way following a successful Heritage Lottery Fund grant application to celebrate the unique and intriguing heritage of Rosehill, part of which will focus on the theatre's links to Lindsay both as a performer and a talented designer.

Rosehill Theatre was the creation of Sir Nicholas Sekers following his collaboration with Oliver Messel, a leading theatre designer of the 20th Century. Sir Nicholas – known as Miki – had emigrated from Hungary in 1937 and founded the West Cumberland Silk Mills at Hensingham, Whitehaven, later Sekers Fabrics Limited. He became prominent in the fashion world and his interest in the arts led him into friendship with many of the great names in music and drama, including Lindsay Kemp.

Rosehill director Richard Elder recently spoke to Lindsay to begin arrangements for him to come over from his home in Italy to talk about his life and times and to lead workshops as part of Creative Connections, which he would have been pleased to do. He was delighted that his designs are being presented by Rosehill.

We are grateful to Alan Sekers, the youngest of Sir Nicholas's three children, for his support in compiling the following tribute. In a varied career within the creative industries, from Hollywood to digital design and communications, he has pioneered the use of multimedia and taken this experience into the area of education, leading courses at London's former Central School of Art and Design and to raise funds to promote development in Gujurat, India's westernmost state.

Memories of Lindsay Kemp

Lindsay Kemp visited Rosehill Theatre in 1968 with David Bowie, while they were developing the show Pierrot in Turquoise before its London opening.

Many years later, Lindsay took the time to appear in a film to celebrate Rosehill's 50th birthday. It was commissioned by Mary Burkett, a major player in the fine art scene in Cumbria and beyond, and a long-term director of Lakeland Arts Trust. She was the first president of Rosehill, of which she was a great supporter, not least financially.

Alan writes: “Right from the beginning, when Miki founded Rosehill, he was clear what it was for. As he said in an interview with the then Border Television, now ITV Border, 'People living in Cumberland have very little chance to hear a good concert, a good theatre, a good lecture at a standard which is available in London, or other big cities. So rather than people having to travel miles to see great art, we should bring great art to the people in Cumberland.

“For Miki, great art, in whatever form it appeared, was the most important thing in life. He, whose father had died in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, who encountered antisemitism in England, believed passionately in the rights of people to live free from prejudice.

“In my childhood, it seemed that most weekends my parents were entertaining artists and friends from all over the world. Around the table there was a wonderful chaos of cultures, languages and ideas. But nowhere was there a hint that people’s class, origins, race, gender or sexuality mattered a damn, compared with the quality of their art and their performances.

“In the 1960s, this atmosphere was rare in most of the country. Rosehill must have seemed like an island: so many artists came to perform at Rosehill because the place was understood to be a haven for artists, where they would be treated with enormous respect – whatever their eccentricities, so that they might give the finest possible performance for the people of Cumbria.

“So, for Lindsay Kemp who was one of the great creators of performance art, who was wildly eccentric and openly gay (and at that time in a relationship with David Bowie), this must have been a most unexpectedly refreshing experience.

“Today, even with the internet, it is still not easy for people in Cumbria to have first-hand experience of art. The Arts Council and others have recognised just how important Rosehill’s part must be in changing this.

“I was very moved to see, last time I was in Whitehaven, that although Miki’s factory is long gone, the theatre lives on. This is in huge part because of the transformation of Rosehill into something much more of the people. The trustees and its director Richard Elder in particular should be so proud of this achievement.

“But underlying the transformation, the constant is that it is the art and the performance that matters. Lindsay Kemp’s greatest performance was to show in his life that art always trumps prejudice.”


 
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