SWINDON has said goodbye to the man who gave the town a golden era of arts for almost two decades.
Family, friends and former colleagues of Terry Court, Swindon’s first arts officer who died on August 15 aged 73, were at Kingsdown Crematorium yesterday to celebrate his life.
Mourners heard he was given the middle name Roy in memory of his uncle who was killed with the loss of more than 700 shipmates during the Battle of Crete in 1941.
As a teen he was apprenticed to be an electrician but decided he wanted to be an art teacher instead and retrained at Swindon Art College. In 1974 he became Thamesdown Borough Council’s first arts officer, a position he held for nearly 20 years.
In an affectionate and emotional tribute Ian Court said he was always known as Terry’s little brother, even after he outgrew his slightly-built sibling.
He recalled Terry’s habit of practical joking, once teasing him that he wasn’t allowed two large bars of Cadbury’s chocolate hidden in a cupboard. When Ian finally persuaded their mother to let him have one he unwrapped it to discover a carefully carved wooden block.
But Terry was also an inspiration. “His main gift to me without realising it, was making me aware that I could achieve what I wanted to achieve,” said Ian.
In fact he said he followed his example, deciding life in the British Rail workshops was not for him and leaving at the end of his apprenticeship to return to college to earn a degree and a career in the NHS.
“Whether he knew it or not, I owe him so much for his inspiration and guidance.”
He said: “I will always be Terry’s little brother and proud to be so. He is going to be missed by so many people for so many different reasons.”
Founder and former director of Swindon Dance Marie McCluskey met Terry when he turned up at her dance school and asked to borrow some costumes for a fundraiser. It was the start of a long and fruitful working relationship.
“An artist himself, he knew how to nurture and develop fellow artists,” she said.
It was during his time at the council that Harry Potter director David Yates, who learned his trade in Swindon and worked at the Cre8 studio, made his first film in the town with a grant from Thamesdown Media Arts.
She said Terry also believed it was important for people to be able to experience top quality arts. He brought stars like acclaimed jazz pianist Oscar Peterson to the Wyvern.
“Terry was a visionary arts leader, so far ahead of his time that he wasn’t always appreciated by all.”
Former Thamesdown Council leader Tony Huzzey, who has suffered from diabetes since childhood, had wanted to add his own tribute but collapsed shortly before he was due to speak. He was treated by paramedics.
Ana Kelly, who was conducting the service, gave his speech for him. He described the council meeting where he had supported a paper on arts projects put forward by Terry.
Years later Terry told him that following the meeting he had turned down the chance to work for the Greater London Council on the strength of it.
Its former leader Ken Livingstone told Tony it was amazing Swindon had achieved much more public participation in art than the GLC had.
The funeral was followed by a wake at the Wyvern Theatre.