Tributes to a Festival founder

A founding member of Wetherby Arts Festival and a prominent volunteer in the area has died aged 80.

Monday, 14th December 2020, 4:11 pm
Updated Monday, 14th December 2020, 4:13 pm
Ted Kilner.

Edward ‘Ted’ Kilner moved to Wetherby in the 1960s when his work as a forensic scientist brought him to the Forensic Science Service, then on Sandbeck Way.

His vast knowledge of plants drove Ted’s gardening hobby and particularly his love of orchids and cacti.

At least once a year Ted would hold a plant sale in Wetherby Town Hall, selling cuttings and plants he had grown throughout the year and dispensing growing advice. He donated the proceeds to local groups.

Ted gave much of his spare time community organisations that benefited from his experience, knowledge and passion for youth and the arts.

During the 1960s Ted became Youth Leader at The Crypt, beneath St James’ Church, Wetherby and oversaw dances, sports teams and dramatic performances as well as arranging visits from celebrities and public figures including HRH Princess Margaret, Lulu and Noel Edmunds.

In the 1970s he became Youth Leader at Boston Spa Youth Club at Deepdale and continued his inspiring work.

In 1977, he was one of the founding members of the Wetherby Arts Festival and as Festival Director used his skills and contacts to bring many famous names to perform in the town as well as bringing local groups together to stage their own shows.

Memorable performances from the likes of George Melly, Stephane Grappelli and Julian Lloyd Weber always brought in an appreciative crowd.

Ted’s love of plays and musicals led him to be fully involved in local drama groups and societies.

As a Director and Producer for Wetherby Musical Theatre Group he delivered many memorable productions ranging from the traditional, such as Oklahoma and Carousel, to the newer and less well-known shows such as Godspell, Chicago and Grease over an association that lasted many years.

When, in 1987, the group were staging a production of Oliver, a whole cast of young performers was needed and once recruited, this led to the formation of the Really Youthful Theatre Group - a spin-off group for young performers of which Ted was particularly proud.

Having later moved from Wetherby to Boston Spa, Ted went on to produce plays with Boston Spa Drama Group but continued to travel to Wetherby to keep up his activities there.

Whenever there was a local project needing support, Ted was always first to volunteer and give his time and was fundamental in campaigning and planning to convert a disused Railway Engine shed into a viable and popular event venue.

Ted’s personal passion for the theatre led him to travel the UK and beyond in search of the next great performance or production - especially if it was a work by his favourite composer, Stephen Sondheim.

“Ted shared so much of himself with so many local people and he will be very fondly remembered,” said Andrew Rodgers.

In recent years, Ted returned to his home town of Huddersfield to be closer to his family and is survived by his sister, Margaret, nephew Richard and niece Sally. 

He passed away following an operation and a short illness in hospital in Huddersfield on November 25.