John Stewart Phillips (1939 to 2019) – A Tribute

Sadly, our past Chairman and longtime Member and Patron, John Phillips, died on 25th April 2019. John was a dedicated volunteer, contributing almost 40 years of service to Greenock Arts Guild Ltd.

John’s formal association with Greenock Arts Guild dates back to 1974 when he first joined our Board of Trustees. He also spent many years prior to this attending and performing in the Arts Guild Theatre with Greenock Players and his own company Pool Theatre. One of his most memorable performances on the Arts Guild stage was starring alongside his old friend Gordon McKenzie in ‘The Stanley Parkers’.

John’s passion for Theatre

John had a great passion for the performing arts, he championed a mend and make do attitude to “get the show on the road and keep it there”. All he ever wanted was the best for Greenock Arts Guild (GAG) and for it to succeed. GAG was founded in 1946 as a not for profit company with charitable aims to promote and encourage participation in arts activities; John certainly played a big part in guiding the company to achieve these aims. From coping with the idiosyncrasies of the Arts Guild’s old heating system and regularly flooded dressing rooms, to negotiating funding packages worth millions of pounds with the Scottish Arts Council.

John was instrumental in the development of Beacon Arts Centre. When the project started, John and his team had initially envisaged a complete renovation of the Arts Guild Theatre. During the following few years, it became clear that the better option would be to relocate the entire business to a more central and prominent waterfront location. John knew that his ‘mend and make do’ mantra could no longer be applied to the Arts Guild and its leaky old roof.

In his role as Treasurer he studied (and often questioned) every invoice received; from large purchases in relation to the new building, right down to the cost of the biscuits for the Annual General Meeting. He understood the value of a penny, which is maybe why the challenge of raising millions of pounds to build the Beacon was never a daunting task for him. We still have many files in our archives with John’s pencil notes alongside, and many recycled envelopes which he used as file dividers to save money on stationery.

The Beacon’s opening in 2013 marked the culmination of over nine years’ work by a dedicated team, initially led by Chairman John; through their efforts, Inverclyde now has one of the finest arts centres in Scotland.

Although, there was no doubt that as our time at Campbell Street drew to a close John had feelings of sadness and nostalgia at leaving an old friend. This surely can only be attributed to his great affection for the quirky old building and to many memories of his time spent there amongst friends and colleagues. The closure of ‘The Guild’ marked the end of a very large chapter in many local people’s lives, and this was certainly the case for John.

“We strive to continue the vision of the people who founded Greenock Arts Guild in 1946 by building a local arts facility not only for the current generation, but more importantly, for future generations.”

John Phillips, 2007

In total, John was on the committee of Greenock Arts Guild for 35 years, he was the Chairman for 10 years (1999-2009) and acted as the Treasurer for 8+ years; John remained close to the redevelopment project and his colleagues until the Beacon opened in 2013. John always gave valuable advice at meetings as well as regaling members with anecdotes of his ‘Guild’ experiences.

John continued to visit the Beacon regularly after his retirement and had the honour of presenting the winners awards in Scottish Community Drama Association’s One Act Play Festival in February 2013. John attended the Beacon’s Royal Gala Opening in August 2013 as a guest of honor and discussed his contribution to the project with His Royal Highness, The Earl of Wessex.

John’s favourite seat in the Beacon was Stalls N1; this seat has been named in his honor by his family. In the Beacons first few years it could be guaranteed that John would be sitting in that seat for every dramatic performance in our programme.

John was also a ‘Leading Light’ donor, gifting thousands of his own hard-earned pounds to our redevelopment project; in recognition of this his name will forever inscribed in the Beacons foyer.

John will be remembered very fondly by Beacon staff, trustees and patrons; past and present.

A Service will be held at Greenock Crematorium on Tuesday 7th May at 2.00pm to which all friends are invited. Family flowers only, there will be a retiral collection for Parkinsons UK in memory of John.