Tributes have been paid to actor, director, playwright and Fenland Citizen columnist Michael Burrell who has died at the age of 77.
A funeral for the Wisbech stalwart is being held today, when his partner of 48 years, Tony Kinnie, will read out Michael’s final article for the paper.
“He’s written it from the grave as such,” he said.
“I wanted to read it at the funeral as its very funny and I wanted us to be able to laugh and celebrate his life.”
Michael died peacefully in the early hours of June 28 from pneumonia and a long-standing lung condition, which he had been battling for many years.
Tony said: “We were together a long time and went through a lot together. It’s very, very difficult but he’s at peace now.
“He didn’t want to carry on like that. Because we knew it was going to happen we had the chance to say our goodbyes which made it a little easier.
“He was just a really, really good man who touched so many people’s lives in so many different ways.
Born in Harrow, Michael moved to Cambridge in 1973, having graduated in English at the university’s oldest college, Peterhouse, 12 years before.
Throughout his life, he was an actor, director and playwright and appeared in more than a dozen plays in the West End including as Rudolph Hess in ‘Hess’, Paravicini in ‘The Mousetrap’ and Arthur Kipps in ‘The Woman in Black’.
He took part in around 400 television programmes including plays, documentaries, comedy series, children’s drama and magazine programmes, and he did voice-overs for about as many again, including introducing celebrities on hundreds of editions of Win, Lose or Draw on ITV.
Michael also had 19 plays professionally produced.
He first became involved with Wisbech in around 1990 when he joined the board of the Angles Centre, now the Angles Theatre, producing galas to raise money for the venue. He resigned from the board in 1995 but joined the theatre as its director later the same year.
During his reign he grew the popularity of the venue by persuading his many famous colleagues and friends to come to Wisbech to perform, mostly for no fee. He also acted in and directed several productions at the Angles between 1995 and 2001.
Michael was also elected chairman of Wisbech Events Forum in 1998, charged with staging and organsing community events for the town, and wrote an opinion column for the Fenland Citizen, called In My View, for more than 12 years.
More recently, he became chairman of drugs awareness charity Natural High and was planning a hard-hitting campaign targeting schools.
A spokesman for the Angles Theatre said: “The Angles Theatre trustees and supporters will very sadly miss the man who, despite a frenzied and sometimes chaotic lifestyle, was always prepared to sit down and offer advice from his many years of experience to an individual or group looking for direction.
“His most memorable recent appearance was a charity event for the theatre, with Sir Derek Jacobi. We shall now treasure our memories of that evening forever.”
The funeral is being held at All Saints’ Church in Huntington at 12.30pm today. A memorial service is due to be held in London in the autumn.