SWINDON’S “inspirational” first arts officer Terry Court, who had a major impact on the town’s cultural scene, paving the way for a variety of activities, entertainments and events from dance to alternative cinema, has died aged 73.

For two decades from the Seventies, Terry, an innovative and visionary figure, opened up a brave new world of artistic and cultural endeavour in Swindon while tapping into a variety of grants with which to fund it all.

During the late Eighties he was instrumental in the creation of Swindon’s pioneering and ongoing ‘per cent for arts’ policy that encouraged developers to sponsor public art which resulted in a huge array of sculptures and other works appear in the town.

In his later years he ran a pub with his wife Lesley, The Goddard Arms at Clyffe Pypard near Royal Wootton Bassett - typically transforming it into a drinking man’s art gallery - before retiring to Cornwall.

Yesterday his daughter and only child Becky Court, 50, who lived near her father at The Lizard, said: “Dad had a really colourful life. His heydays were in Swindon where he was involved in so many different projects.

“He suffered very badly from asthma all of his life but he didn’t let that interfere with what he wanted to achieve in Swindon. He always wanted to push the boundaries of what he could do in Swindon.

“When I was a little girl he took me around to all sorts of things that he had put on. He was so enthusiastic about the town and the arts scene.

"I think that what he did in Swindon was absolutely amazing.”

The son of a railwayman, Terry was born in Whitworth Road in January 1943 and instead of following his father into ‘the works,’ as was the norm, he went to Swindon Art College and became a youth leader and an arts teacher at Ferndale primary school.

He had also immersed himself into the town’s arts scene and in 1974 was appointed as the borough’s first arts officer, his official title being Head of Thamesdown Cultural Policies - a position he held for 19 years.

He oversaw the running of the Wyvern Theatre, the Town Hall Studios, the Arts Centre, the Link Arts Studios, the Jolliffe Arts and Crafts studios, the Great Western Railway Museum and Thamesdown Foundation for the Arts, among others.

But as the Adver once described him, he was the antithesis of the high-brow arts director and his ethos was “arts for everyone".

His position enabled him instigate a golden era of arts in Swindon that included street theatre, poetry reading, rock and jazz concerts, alternative and open-air cinema, and a huge assortment of cultural events and festivals which even included horse racing at the Polo Ground.

Aided by his long-time pal Swindon artist Ken White, he introduced a programme that saw a series of eye-catching murals appear around town – transforming Swindon for a decade or so into the unlikely Murals Capital of the UK.

One of Terry’s greatest achievements was enabling a young London dance teacher Marie McCluskey to transform the unloved and largely redundant town hall into the nationally renowned Swindon Dance Studio – for which director Ms McCluskey was later awarded the MBE.

Later on Terry and wife Lesley, who were childhood sweethearts, continued to organise arts and cultural events at their pub, including a discos for the deaf, before retiring to Cornwall.

Terry, who was devastated by his wife’s death in 2000, became ill two months ago and died at Truro Hospital on Monday evening.

In recent weeks Terry – who has two grandchildren, Callum 25, and Amy, 19 – had been writing a speech for Becky’s wedding to long-time partner Tim Spooner in October.

Becky, who was with Terry when he died, said: “Dad loved Swindon but it would have been too much for him to have moved back.

“He left me a list of things he wanted to do and he wants to be cremated in Swindon. He wants to come home.”

Details of Terry Court’s funeral will be announced later.

All thanks to Terry

HE is one of the country’s best known muralists and has been a leading figure on the Swindon arts scene for more than 40 years.

But Ken White would probably have become a gardener if were not for Terry Court.

It was Terry’s idea to brighten up drab areas of Swindon with a series of colourful murals, opening the door for Ken to paint his Golden Lion Bridge mural in Princes Street in 1976, where it can still be seen today.

Recalled Ken, 73: “I did it as part of a job creation scheme. At that stage I would probably have become a gardener.”

The mural appeared in the national press and launched Ken on a career as an artist and muralist.

“It was all thanks to Terry,” said Ken who had known Terry since they attended Moredon school.

Ken described Terry as an “inspirational” figure for arts and culture in Swindon: “He was really good at sourcing grants for everything that went on here. He was so dedicated. He made so much happen here.''