Like many people, I've been a bit in shock for the past week at the news of the sudden and unexpected death of Paul Colley.
I worked with Paul for at Contact in Manchester when we were re-launching the building and the company after a big renovation and years of closure. Paul had worked at the old Contact Theatre and brought a great passion for and love of repertory theatre to our new, rather untraditional model. But he was also a man who embraced and loved challenges, and he quickly set about training a generation of technicians who would have the flexibility, imagination and patience to embrace new models of theatre-making. Along with Steve Curtis at the greenroom, he probably trained up half the technicians in Manchester, and Manchester's theatre scene is far the richer for that.
Paul went on to become a very respected lighting designer. Perhaps to his own surprise (he was a dedicated lover of the rock end of the music spectrum), he became one of the key lighting figures for the new generation of hip hop theatre practitioners. His recent work on Benji Reid's 'The Devil's Got Quentin's Heart' was one of the most stunning lighting designs I have seen. Another of my favourite pieces of work by Paul was on Vurt, an adaptation of Jeff Noon's visionary novel, directed by Liam Steel at Contact, for which the artistic team created the hallucinatory landscape of a futuristic Manchester.
Despite much of his work being in North West England, Paul was a very proud Welshman, and in recent years was doing more and more work back in his home country. He was about to Production Manage National Theatre Wales's second show, Shelf Life, for us; and I was looking forward to future lighting designs from Paul for NTW too.
I am so sad at his loss; and will always remember my last drink with him in the Rummer Tavern - his enthusiasm for every new idea and project, his warmth when he talked about his family, and his huge enjoyment of his pint of beer! A very fine man indeed; a great loss to the theatre profession and to Wales; and someone who left the world a better place as a result of his hearty, heart-felt presence in it.