In memory of John Earl

It is with great sadness that we announce John Earl, the Theatres Trust’s first paid Director (from 1986 to 1996), has passed away at the age of 95.

(updated 28 June 2024)

With great sadness Theatres Trust, the national advisory and advocacy body for theatres, shares the news of the death of John Earl at the age of 95.

John Earl served as the Trust’s first paid Director from 1986 to 1996. He took over the Theatres Trust at a key point, building the Trust’s influence and profile on modest resources and enabling the Trust to establish itself as an important source of advice and advocacy for the nation’s network of theatres. 

A building surveyor by profession, John was the section leader of the Greater London Council’s Historic Buildings Division. Spurred on by the 1971 demolition of the Granville Theatre of Varieties in Walham Green, Fulham, John played an instrumental role in the council undertaking a survey of all remaining old theatres in Greater London and making recommendations for listing.

When a similar voluntary project began to assess theatres across the UK, John was a key member of the committee and principal author of what would become the 1982 publication Curtains!!! (or a New Life for Old Theatres). Eighteen years later, in 2000, its successor, the Guide to British Theatres 1750-1850 A Gazetteer, was published, edited by John Earl and Michael Sell.

John was also responsible for establishing the Theatre Protection Fund, the umbrella term for Theatres Trust’s various grant schemes that continue to this day to provide financial support directly to theatres.

John remained a valued special adviser to Theatres Trust beyond his time as Director and was also President Emeritus of the Frank Matcham Society. He will be greatly missed, especially by his wife Val and the many people who have worked with him to secure the future of the UK’s theatres.

Theatres Trust Director Jon Morgan says “John’s passion for theatre buildings, infinite wisdom and guiding hand in supporting subsequent Theatres Trust Directors was invaluable. He was a giant in the world of theatre building preservation and support who leaves behind an unrivalled legacy of theatres he helped save that continue to entertain and serve their communities to this day.”

If you wish to send condolence cards to John’s wife Val and family, we request that you send them direct to the Theatres Trust office at 22 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0QL (please mark the envelope John Earl) and we will ensure Val receives them safely.