A former chairman of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre who guided the venue through the controversial staging of a play which led to riots in 2004, has died at the age of 68.
The theatre has paid tribute to the leadership of television executive Andy Allan, who died on November 28 after a long battle with cancer.
He was also the man who axed city made TV soap Crossroads. Mr Allan joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre as chairman in 2000, following his retirement from television production.
He appointed Jonathan Church as artistic director and Stuart Rogers as executive director, also making changes to board.
Mr Rogers said: “He took over as chairman when the Rep was at one of its lowest points for many years. He helped us all turn the theatre around.”
He described Mr Allan as a “hands off chairman”, who trusted his two new directors to take control.
“He was tremendous like that,” said Mr Rogers. “You knew you had his support and his confidence as long as you did what you said you were going to do.”
Mr Allan is remembered as a man who was always laughing.
“He could find the funny side of everything,” said Mr Rogers.
The most controversial episode of his chairmanship was the production of Behzti – Pujabi for dishonour – in December 2004.
The play, written by Sikh playwright Gurpreet Bhatti Kaur, centred on a Sikh temple where rape, abuse and murder take place.
“The Rep has always had a reputation for doing new work and it was a tremendously exciting new play,” said Mr Rogers. ‘‘He wasn’t afraid of being controversial,” he added. “He felt it was the right thing for the theatre to do.”
Behzti ran for ten days before violent demonstrations broke out at the theatre over the weekend of December 20.
The following Monday, police told Mr Allan and Mr Rogers that they could no longer guarantee the safety of audiences and theatre staff, and the decision was made to cancel the production.
“Andy will be remembered for his good-humoured calm and unflappable approach in periods of challenge,” said Trina Jones, general manager of the Rep.
“In particular for his support of the company during the debate around Behzti.”
Mr Allan had experience managing difficult situations following television successes such as the satirical series Spitting Image, a programme which involved spending many hours with Central Television’s lawyers.
He stepped down as chairman of the theatre the following year when his tenure came to an end.
By this time the Rep was running a healthy profit, and audience figures were at their highest level for many years.
“That was his lasting legacy, I think,” said Mr Rogers. “He instilled confidence in our funders, created a new board and gave everybody the focus and encouragement to get things back on track.”
Born in Newcastle, Mr Allan first visited the Rep in his student days, when he studied philosophy at Birmingham University.
His career began as a presenter and producer in the current affairs department at ABC, which broadcast to the North and Midlands at weekends.
He moved briefly to Independent Television News before transferring to Thames Television in 1969 as a scriptwriter for Today, rising quickly to become editor of the programme, which was relaunched as Thames News.
In 1978, Mr Allan moved back to his native North-east to become programme controller and later managing director of Tyne Tees television.
He then became director of programmes at Central, where he persuaded the network, with his controller of drama, Ted Childs, to run a television series based on the crime novels of Colin Dexter.
Inspector Morse, starring John Thaw, ran from 1987 to 2000. It was sold to more than 100 countries worldwide.
As well as Morse, Mr Allan helped launched dramas such as Soldier Soldier, Peak Practice and The Cook Report.
He famously called time on Crossroads in 1988, reportedly telling his staff: “Hold the door open for the mad axe-wielding fans.”
The show had run for over 20 years, and was adored by fans.
Following the merger of Central with Carlton Television, Mr Allan spent a lot of time in Birmingham, developing Central’s regional programming.
Mr Allan took early retirement in 1998, after which he took over chairmanship of the Rep.
Mr Allan was twice divorced and is survived by both his former wives, five children and his partner, Phoebe Lambert.