Tribute paid to stalwart Kenilworth resident Philip Highley - The Leamington Observer

Tribute paid to stalwart Kenilworth resident Philip Highley

Leamington Editorial 9th Jan, 2020 Updated: 10th Jan, 2020   0

TRIBUTE has been paid to stalwart Kenilworth resident Philip Highley.

He passed away on December 27 aged 81 and if there had a been a ‘Mr Kenilworth’ title then Philip would have had a good claim to it.

Down the years he was involved in many aspects of town life. He joined the Talisman Theatre in 1973 and was active to his passing – performing in, writing and directing productions. In the same year he became director of Kenilworth Gang Show and in 1999 its assistant director.

Not content with just organising the Kenilworth Gang Show, Philip was also director of the Nuneaton Gang Show and helped breathe life into the struggling Hinckley Gang Show in the 1990s.




Having been a scout in his younger days, Philip remained very active in the scouting movement – both as a leader and assistant leader and was also Scout Assistant District Commissioner for 20 years until 1998.

Philip, who was a retired financial advisor, was busy in many other aspects of Kenilworth life.


He was a Rotarian and Paul Harris Fellow, member of Kenilworth Town Twinning Committee and its treasurer, an Emmaus charity trustee, a member of both Kenilworth Carnival Committee and Kenilworth Festival Committee, and helped organise the Two Castles Run.

He also regularly performed and fund-raised for Waverley Day Centre and transported blind people to social afternoons at the Kenilworth Methodist Church Hall, where he also provided entertainment.

He was an active member of St Nicholas Church, as a volunteer and also sang in the choir.

Philip’s community endeavours saw him selected to be a Torch Bearer during the 2012 London Olympics celebrations.

And in 2016 he was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM). He is also the only person to date to receive the Kenilworth Award of Merit ‘for outstanding service to the community’ on two occasions – in 2001 and 2009.

Philip leaves wife Kaye.

Philip’s committal takes place at Oakley Wood Crematorium on Saturday January 25 at 10am for family and anyone else wishing to attend. This will be followed by a service as a celebration of Philip’s life at St Nicholas Church at 11.30am.

Friend and Talisman Theatre vice chair Dik Thacker submitted the following tribute.

“Philip transferred to Coventry with his employment in the 1960s and as a result of his love of the theatre and performance as a young man, he soon became involved in the thriving amateur theatres in the area as a musician, director and performer. He was approached in 1973 to become involved in the Kenilworth Gang Show which had started-up in 1971 but now found itself without a director. Philip took on this role and was to direct it for more than 40 years and his involvement continues to the present day.

“Philip was destined, however, to become much more than a director. Having been a young scout himself, he knew the potential of the scouting movement in general, and the unique outlet of Gang Show, in particular to bring young people together, to motivate them and to develop their confidence and fulfil their potential beyond what they could have dreamed for themselves.

“To this end there were no auditions to find ‘stars’ for Kenilworth Gang Show, Philip decreed that everyone in the scouting movement, regardless of ability, had a right to be involved. Philip saw it as his role to bring out the very best in everyone who wished to be involved. His success was such that the gang outgrew the local school stage and in 1983 transferred to the professional stage at the University of Warwick Arts Centre with a cast of over 100 young people.

“Philip used his amateur theatre contacts to assist in the musical, staging and technical departments – roles which are now in the hands of those who once were youngsters in his earlier shows but who have remained committed and whose own children are now involved.

“Philip has created an incredible virtuous circle touching the lives of thousands of young people over 40 years and which goes from strength to strength in succeeding generations.

“Philip’s influence has spread much wider, however: He was also responsible for stabilising a failing Hinckley Gang Show and directing Nuneaton Gang Show – both of which have grown and enjoy continued success to the present day. Philip also became a scout leader in 1973 and carried out this role with the 4th Kenilworth Group for over 30 years.

“Amongst other initiatives which Philip has created is the concept of Gang Show in a Day, which he started in 1993. Gangs from all over the UK, involving hundreds of young people, were brought together in Kenilworth to socialise, share and put on a collaborative show. This proved so successful that not only has it been repeated, but it has been replicated nationwide.

“One of Philip’s proudest achievements was the appearance of the Gang Show Choir, which he had built from Kenilworth and Hinckley Gang Shows, performing at the Royal Albert Hall in 1995. Not one of the participants had ever dreamed that they might achieve this before they met Philip.

“Gang Show and scouting have taken the biggest share of Philip’s time over the last 40 years, but his participation in many other local causes is also huge. In many ways he has forged links between the various activities’ sectors of the local community and a notable example is his involvement in the Town Twinning Association. Philip was responsible for taking the Kenilworth Gang Show to Kenilworth’s French ‘twin’ of Bourg-La-Reine in 2000 and the German ‘twin’ of Eppstein in 2004, forging international friendships that continue to this day. It is no small wonder that partly because of Philip’s involvement in Gang Show and because of the deep respect that he has earned from so many youngsters and parents alike across a span of 40 years, that he is so well known and loved in Kenilworth. He is the only person to have received the Kenilworth Award of Merit “for outstanding service to the community” on two occasions – In 2001 and 2009.

“The sheer breadth and span of Philip’s contributions to local charities and community in general were extensive. It is a fact that every day he had not one but several charitable appointments and also carried out the background day-to-day accounting and planning work.”

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