Kevin Ryan obituary

In 1991 my friend and colleague Kevin Ryan, who has died aged 62 of mesothelioma, took over as CEO of Charnwood Arts, a community arts organisation in the East Midlands which he transformed from a small local forum into a pioneering, nationally and internationally recognised body.

Born in Bristol, Kevin as the son of Arthur, a press setter, and Lilian (nee Sainsbury), a nursing orderly. The family moved to Birmingham when Kevin was seven and he left Price’s Grammar school at 16 to work in the printing trade, before starting an arts course at Plymouth Polytechnic which he had to leave because he could not get a grant.

Kevin met Frances Hoyte, a teacher, on bonfire night in Lewes, Sussex; they married in 1979 and eventually settled in Loughborough, where they home-schooled their four children. Initially Kevin worked as a hospital porter, before studying social administration at Loughborough University (1981-84). He then worked at a youth enterprise scheme, followed by a period at the Garendon Street Workshop in Leicester, working with unemployed and vulnerable people, teaching printing and photography. He also did part-time community arts work at the Rosebery Arts centre in Loughborough.

His experience in those roles led to his job as CEO at Charnwood Arts, which had been run on a voluntary basis with partnerships involving local schools, Charnwood borough council, Arts Council England, Leicestershire county council and Loughborough University.

At Charnwood, Kevin coordinated drama, singing and crafts projects, ran student exchange programmes, welcomed cohorts of Taiwanese postgraduate students each summer, and gave support to individual artists, dancers, poets, writers, actors and photographers. He also started the popular Glastonbudget music festival, held each year on a farm in Leicestershire. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in recognition of his work.

In his spare time, as well as in his work, Kevin was dedicated photographer, and many of his photographs were published online and in exhibitions.

He is survived by Frances, his children, Charlotte, Miffy, Osh and Brendan, and four grandchildren.

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