John Warburtons Eulogy
I know that many of you here today will have known John through your mutual love of Musical Theatre. This is certainly the case for me. But John’s association began way back in 1956 just after his father passed away. His dad had been very involved in the Standard Telephone and Cable Dramatic Society and John virtually took over where he had left off. This was the beginning of a long and active association with the amateurs. Gwen, of course was also heavily involved and this meant that they could enjoy their hobby together. They both joined the Finchley Operatic Society, which performed in Hornsea. I don’t have any details of what he undertook there, but having known John in later life, I know he would have been a valuable member to them - mind you if you were a man and you breathed and could walk, (much as it is today in fact) you were in!! They moved to Colchester in 1969 and, like all good amateurs, sought out a local society that they could join. Obviously, this had to be Colchester Operatic Society and John’s first part with them was Skidmore in Oklahoma. He went on to take many roles including an opportunity to ‘Brush Up His Shakespeare’ as the first gangster alongside John Enfield in Kiss Me Kate. Some of his other memorable roles were Frank in Die Fledermaus, the title role in The Mikado, the very demanding role of Edward Moulton Barrett in Robert & Elizabeth and the macho Pluto in Orpheus in the Underworld. I could go on.
In 1992, the local NODA regional rep, Robin Sampson, decided that it was time for him to step down from that role as he and his wife were to spend 6 months in South Carolina and 6 months in the UK. John was nominated to take over the role BUT, so was I. We didn’t know each other back then as I was involved with Springers in Chelmsford and our paths had not crossed. Now, John Plumtree, who was the Eastern Area Councillor back then, didn’t want to turn either of us down as he was always very appreciative of people who willingly volunteered for things. So, in his wisdom, he decided to split the very large region number 8 and create a new region. Originally, the region stretched from Ingatestone in the west to Clacton in the east – with something like 26 member societies. So, both John and I were elected as regional reps, John taking the eastern half and I took the western half. Being in these roles, gave birth to a long and happy friendship between John and me. We worked closely together on the NODA Eastern Area Committee, both learning from each other as we went along. But in 1995, John Plumtree was to become the National President of NODA, meaning that his councillorship was to be vacated. Notwithstanding the fact that I was some 18 years his junior, John encouraged me to put my name forward for the role. I was elected and John continued to serve under my councillorship for the next ten years and was second to none in providing advice and support to all his societies, which had grown in number under his stewardship by around 80%. During his time as a rep, he continued to be involved at Colchester and served as their Chairman from 1998 to 2004. In addition to that, he had been invited to direct shows for a number of societies and I so clearly remember his production of Carousel at the Quay Theatre in Sudbury. Carousel was one of John’s personal favourites and there was no way he was going to present a production of Carousel without an actual Carousel. Now, for those of you who are familiar with The Quay, it is not much bigger than a postage stamp and it was very ambitious to consider putting a carousel on that stage. But, John did just that – it was positioned upstage right and yes, it was probably only 5 feet in diameter, but it was a carousel and it was fully functional. Such was John’s ingenuity when undertaking direction.
Time rolled on and in 2005, it was my turn to become the NODA National President and I then suggested to John that he should consider taking over my, soon-to-be vacated role as Regional Councillor. Consider it he did and in September 2005, he was elected as the Eastern Regional Councillor. This was a job that he took no less seriously than all the other posts he had held.
Terry Drury, whilst undertaking duties as the Essex Child Protection Officer was also the Chairman of the National Network for Children in Employment and Entertainment. He invited John and I to assist him in writing some rules and regulations for the safeguarding of children in performance and it was these rules which formed the draft paper which went to the government and later became law and is still in force to this day. John took that subject very seriously and because of his of his involvement with the NNCEE, lead the in-house debate at NODA on child protection. John’s involvement was extended further when he chaired and organised the NODA Youth Summer School which ran for some three years from 2010 – 2012. By now, John was beginning to feel the strain of the job and I had long chats with him about the possibility of him becoming President of NODA in 2015. He thought long and hard but decided that this really wasn’t what he wanted to do. I think this demonstrated the type of man he was – hardworking but didn’t seek the glory. So, in 2013 he decided to step down from the role as the Councillor for NODA East and take a well-earned retirement. He continued to have an interest in what was going on but recognised that he had had his time and quite deservedly could always look back on his many achievements in the amateur movement as well as holding some very cherished memories of such. Where he is now, I think we can be assured that he will Never Walk Alone!