Campaign in tribute to a Grand stalwart
CAMPAIGNERS are hoping to get the main auditorium at the Grand Theatre renamed after one of its long-serving administrators.
John Chilvers served in the role for 25 years, and brought some of the biggest names of the day to its stage, including Tommy Steele and Cilla Black.
He was credited with playing a key role in saving the theatre, when it was under threat in the late 1960s from competition from television, and was awarded an MBE in 1973.
He died in 2008, aged 88, following a short illness.
Now, people who remember his contribution have launched an online petition calling for his role to be recognised, by naming the auditorium after him.
Ian Howells, originally from Penclawdd, said: "John Chilvers fought very hard to keep the Grand open in the very lean years of the mid 70s. "Sometimes he even took no salary at times just so the theatre would tick over in the slowest weeks.
"Many theatres have their names as a whole, or the auditoriums, named after people who nobody knows, or just corporate names that support the theatre through sponsorship.
"The naming of the Grand's auditorium after the man who saved it would be a great honour to him and the people of Swansea."
Norwich-born Mr Chilvers was introduced to the theatre when he was an airfield control sergeant in the RAF during the Second World War. After the war, he decided to embark upon a career in the theatre and set up his own repertory company in High Wycombe, going on to perform through the UK.
He first visited Swansea in 1956, when the repertory company appeared at the Empire Theatre in Oxford Street.
A year later he met members of the Willis family, who owned the Grand Theatre, and told them of his ambition to abandon acting in favour of directing. He was given the chance to direct a six-week rep season at the Grand, beginning his long-running association with the theatre.
A Swansea Council spokesman said: "John Chilvers is a well-remembered and much-loved icon of the Grand Theatre's history. A large portrait of John already hangs in the theatre's front of house corridor, so he's seen by staff and visitors every day.
"We haven't been approached about a petition to re-name the auditorium after John. Should anyone wish to formally submit one, the normal process would be to send it to the Democratic Services team at Swansea Council who would arrange for it to be considered."
Go to www.change.org/petitions/ the-john-chilvers- auditorium-at-swansea- grand-theatre