Wednesday, 20 March 2019
THE treasurer of the Kenton Theatre in Henley has stepped down after almost 50 years.
Bryan Villars, an accountant, joined the New Street venue in 1969 and remained in the same role throughout.
The 83-year-old, who lives in North Stoke, formally stepped down at a dinner given in his honour at the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row.
More than 30 people attended, including Kenton trustees, members and past and present chairmen including Alan Pontin and Chris Tapp.
Mr Villars said: “I took it on because they didn’t have anybody and it just sort of carried on.
“I worked for Spencer Ell & Company in Northfield End, an accountancy business, and there was somebody working for them whose daughter was in the Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, and they wanted someone to take over the book-keeping. HAODS was running the theatre in those days.”
Mr Villars later founded his own accountancy firm, Villars & Co, later Villars Hayward, in Boston Road.
He said: “Some of my chaps helped out occasionally because there was quite a lot of paperwork. When I retired I could devote most of my life to it. It just became a way of life really. It’s a bit like running your own business in a way. One thing hasn’t changed — it is always hectic!
“I also became a trustee and I worked in the bar, which I enjoyed — it was a relief from book-keeping.”
Mr Villars also organised the theatre’s first ghost hunt through a friend in the Ghost Club Society.
They were rewarded with a sighting of what he described as “a non-scary ghost” and he claims to have glimpsed another ghost backstage in a dressing room.
In 2010 the trustees bought the freehold of the building from the Henley Municipal Charities after raising £350,000 in six months.
The success of the fund-raising appeal, called Kenton For Keeps, meant the board could refurbish the theatre and add extra facilities to attract more customers.
Mr Villars said: “In the early days it was mainly societies like HAODS and the Henley Players that used it.
“It got busier and was revamped a bit when Alan Pontin was chairman and we had to raise the money to buy the freehold.
“Since then it has been run much more full-time, as it were. Getting the freehold so we had more control over the place was a highlight.”
Mr Villars, who is still the treasurer of HAODS, originally resigned as treasurer of the theatre in 2016 but stayed on until a replacement was found and he could hand over.
The new treasurer is Michael Jamieson.
18 February 2019
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