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Michael Burrell- A Tribute

July 2, 2014 6:13 PM

Michael Burrell- A Tribute

It is with great sorrow that we report the passing of one of our leading local activists, Michael Burrell, who died in Peterborough Hospital last week after a short illness. Michael was an active supporter of the local Liberal Democrats in spite of having major commitments with the National Liberal Club as well as a host of other activities, both professionally as an actor and playwright, and as a key member of many local cultural and public service groups. As recently as May 22nd he stood for election in Huntingdon West as a District Councillor, a seat in which he had worked for many years even though the prospect of success was small. He will be greatly missed and we are grateful for the generous contribution of his time, experience and wisdom over many years.

Michael was educated at the John Lyon School, Harrow becoming Head Boy from 1955-56 and In 2008 the school named their new drama studio after him. It was only a few weeks ago that he finished writing a book on the history of Harrow School. His interest in Drama saw him re-start drama at the school, which had ceased before WW2, founding and becoming Secretary of the Drama Group; staging and playing in two revues; then directing and appearing in a composite version of Shakespeare's Henry IV plays; and finally playing in The Proposal by Chekhov.

Michael served his National Service in Counter Intelligence, in Germany and in 1958 went up to Peterhouse College, Cambridge. With fellow undergraduate John Sharp, he re-founded the College drama society, the Heywood Society, which had atrophied some years before as Secretary 1959-60 and President 1960-61. He appeared in Marlowe Society productions during his time at the University, playing in Friar Bacon & Friar Bungay and in Dr Faustus, both at Stratford-Upon-Avon and at the Lyric, Hammersmith. He also appeared in a musical at the Lyric Hammersmith with a cast including Derek Jacobi, Corin Redgrave & John Fortune, and included a hit number sung by Michael & Ian McKellen, and was a Member of the Royal Shakespeare Company,

He joined the 1960 Footlights revue, Pop Goes Mrs Jessop, at the invitation of Peter Cook. The following year, directed by David Reid, Michael appeared in the revue, I Thought I Saw It Move, along with Peter Bellwood, Hugh Walters, Humphrey Barclay & David Frost. With Cambridge University Mummers in 1960, he played in the world premiere of Arnold Wesker's The Kitchen, which won the National Union of Students annual Drama Competition, judged by Harold Hobson. Michael was Secretary of the CU Mummers from 1959-60 and President from 1960-61. He graduated in English in 1961, taking his MA in 1965. In 2002, the Peterhouse students appointed Michael Honorary President of the Heywood Society; from 2008-2011 he was on the Committee of the Peterhouse Society. He succeeded Sir David Wright as Chairman of the Peterhouse Society, from 2013 to his death.

Subsequent interests outside work included long periods serving on various committees, including the Drama Panel of the Eastern Arts Association, the boards of Wells Centre, Wells-Next-The-Sea in Norfolk, Tiebreak Touring Theatre (where he was Company Secretary for 18 years), Kings Lynn Arts Centre & Festival, The Angles Theatre Wisbech and The Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. From 1998-2008, Michael was Chair of the Wisbech Events Forum, organising and facilitating community events in Wisbech. In 2002, he became a Trustee of Natural High Experience Ltd, a charity working with disadvantaged young people in Cambridgeshire; he has for some years been its Chairman.

In 2008 he became Patron of the Phoenix Writers, a group with mental health problems with whom he has worked for many years. In 2010 he became Principal of Ratzkool, the Wisbech Angles Theatre programme whereby adults and young people can achieve accreditations and qualifications in performing arts. Also in 2010 he was admitted to the American Order of Merit, conferred by the American Biographical Institute. In 2011, Michael joined Jo Brand, Dame Cleo Laine, Sir Derek Jacobi and Claire Tomalin as Patron of The Angles Theatre.

Michael has been active in politics since the early 1990s and until 2011 was Chairman of the Huntingdon branch of the Liberal Democrat Party. At the National Liberal Club in Whitehall, he was Chairman of The General Purposes Committee 2006-2009, Vice-Chairman of the Club 2007-2010, and Chairman 2010-2013.

A celebration of Michael's life will be held at Huntingdon's All Saints Church (Market Square) at 12.30 on Wednesday 9th July, Cambridge Crematorium at 13.30

In sorrow

Gordon Thorpe

Huntingdonshire Liberal Democrats Constituency Chai