The Empire Theatre Trust was deeply saddened to learn of the death of its chairman, Terry Smith on Sunday, August 15, 2021. Mr Smith, 87, a hugely respected and admired business figure on Merseyside and beyond for more than six decades, passed away in hospital in Wirral after a short illness. He lived with his wife Pam in Hoylake.
Terry became a director of the Empire Theatre Trust, which owns the famous theatre building in Lime Street, Liverpool, shortly after it was formed by the former Merseyside County Council in 1979. He succeeded the late Sir Philip Carter as Chairman of the Trust, a registered charity, in 2015.
Terry, who founded and ran Radio City and was also a former director of Liverpool Football Club, was a pivotal figure in the project to expand the Empire in 1998. That saw the auditorium and stage modernised and expanded with new systems for sound, lighting and other improvements which allowed major productions to be performed in Liverpool, including top London shows.
He worked tirelessly to support the theatre and the arts, in particular championing the establishment of a nationally renowned creative arts programme which the theatre helps fund and run across the Liverpool City Region. He helped host the Queen and Prince Philip when they attended to reopen the theatre after its major refurbishments in 1999.
Here, his successor as Chair of the Trust, David Morgan, pays tribute to Terry….
“Dedicated, passionate, tireless, inspiring and caring. In the many tributes to Terry, these words have been used and they equally apply to his work with the Empire Theatre Trust. The Trust was formed by Merseyside County Council in 1979, at the time when the Empire Theatre was facing closure, the aim being to ensure the theatre remained at the centre of performing arts in Liverpool and the surrounding region.
“Shortly afterwards, Terry was co-opted onto the original trust board, bringing a wealth of experience and expertise to the Trust, in particular that of the entertainment industry both locally and nationally, which proved to be of great assistance over the years. When the Council was abolished, Terry was at the forefront of negotiations for its survival, which resulted in Apollo Leisure (now known as Ambassador Theatre Group) becoming the managers of the theatre under a commercial arrangement, which secured the long-term future of the theatre.
“Terry had a passion for the arts and an everlasting desire to see the theatre reach out through the Creative Learning Department to the less fortunate of our society, particularly school children in the poorer areas of the city. He realised the Trust had a significant role to play in both assisting the Department’s activities and small external arts organisations, by providing Trust funding for many projects over the years, thus giving opportunities that would not otherwise have been experienced. And, in the months before his passing he was developing yet another project to be launched in 2022.
“On becoming Chair of the Trust in 2015, succeeding the late Sir Philip Carter, Terry introduced new trustees and galvanised the charitable activities of the Trust by a series of events, where his passion for the theatre, leadership, drive and determination ensured their success. These events were aimed at the people and arts organisations of Merseyside and one in particular was undoubtedly inspired by his great love of the city, an arts competition called ‘My Liverpool’ to show the city through the eyes of the artist.
“Terry used his wealth of connections to good use for the benefit of the theatre, helping in 2007 to bring the Royal Variety performance to the theatre and persuading those in the industry to contribute to ‘Prompt’ – a guide for the development of the arts and raising funds from regular gala evenings; the two most memorable being in 1999 in the presence of her Majesty the Queen and the late Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of the reopening of the theatre following an £11m extension and more recently to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the theatre in the company of the Earl of Wessex.
“Legacy is an often overused word but it is entirely appropriate in Terry’s case. He leaves a real and lasting legacy. And, on a personal level, I, in common with the other trustees, will remember Terry with great and lasting affection. His leadership, drive, ideas and personality will be much missed by the Trustees and all associated with the Empire Theatre.