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7 ways Bill Kenwright left a legacy on Liverpool

9 months ago

7 ways Bill Kenwright left a legacy on Liverpool
Bill Kenwright. Credit: BKLproductions

Bill Kenwright: the legacy he left for Liverpool

Apart from family and friends, Bill Kenwright had two major passions in his life – the theatre and football, in particular his beloved Everton.

And you can add to those his city.

His death on Monday, October 25, has sent waves of sadness throughout Merseyside and the rest of the UK and prompted hundreds of tributes from the worlds of sport, stage, and beyond.

The 78-year-old Wavertree-born theatre impresario and Everton chairman will be missed by many, but he leaves a legacy for Liverpool and its people that will never be forgotten.

Blood Brothers

According to Edward Lyons in the famous Liverpool-set drama Blood Brothers ‘everybody has secrets’ but it was no secret that Bill Kenwright transformed Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers from a modest success in the early 80s to a resounding one. The story of Mrs Johnstone and her troubled clan has become one of the longest-running shows of all time, playing at the Phoenix in London for 21 years and touring with his production company more or less continuously since 1987. It also went to Broadway.

Playhouse Theatre

The former actor – he played Gordon Clegg in Coronation Street – turned producer helped save the city’s Playhouse Theatre in the 1990s when it was struggling and had a debt of £750,000. In spite of his heavy theatre commitments with 10 shows on in the West End at any one time and others out on the road, he raced to its rescue and ensured an instant audience by programming plays by city sons Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale.

Bill Kenwright - The Guide Liverpool
Picture – Anthony Delvin/PA

Forging links with Hillsborough families 

Few can forget Bill Kenwright’s words at the 24th Hillsborough memorial service in 2013, which showed that while he loved Everton, he also loved his city and all its people – he had compassion for them and stood with them. He told the Anfield Crowd there were two words which were mentioned a lot and he resonated with: “I think to me they are the two most important words in the English language, certainly to people in Liverpool they are the two most important words in the English language – ‘me mum’.

“We have all got mums, and I saw your banner at Reading on Saturday saying ‘you’ve taken on the wrong city’. Well, you’ve taken on the wrong mums, too, because we all know about Liverpool mums and the way they fight for their kids and their family. I hope by next year, the 25th anniversary, you’ll be celebrating the greatest victory that any team in this country has ever had, not just in football, but in life.” It got him a standing ovation from The Kop. He became a rock for many grieving families and became great friends with chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall, who he christened ‘Marvellous Margaret’, supporting the battle for justice.

Bill Kenwright. Credit: Wayne Rooney (Instagram)
Bill Kenwright. Credit: Wayne Rooney (Instagram)

David Moyes and restored fortunes

It was Bill Kenwright who, after taking over from Sir Philip Carter as chairman in 2004, formed a formidable partnership with manager David Moyes and set about restoring the club’s fortunes. In Kenwright’s first season Everton achieved a top-four place in the Premier League and a place in the following season’s Champions League qualifying rounds. By 2016 when he relinquished his major shareholding, Everton FC had finished in the top seven on a further eight occasions and been FA Cup finalists in 2009.

Everton in the Community

Everton is not just a club – it’s part of the community. The Blues’ official charity, Everton in the Community, is one of the UK’s top sporting charities and one of the Premier League’s leading community schemes, and it was at Bill Kenwright’s insistence that everything was put into building it and reaching out around Goodison. Through its 120+ dedicated full-time staff and 160+ volunteers, the charity offers more than 50 programmes covering social issues including health, employability, anti-social behaviour, crime, education, dementia, poverty, youth engagement, youth justice and disability.  More than £10m has been invested in The People’s Hub, the charity’s home and community campus; The Blue Base bar and venue and, now in its 11th year, the Everton Free School.

New Stadium 

The new Everton FC Stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock will provide an iconic new home for the club on the banks of the Mersey and will stand as a legacy to his memory – and it was during Bill Kenwright’s reign at Goodison that the move changed from a dream to a reality. Its American architect Dan Meis said in a Tweet (X) yesterday: “So very sad to hear the news. Whatever your views are of the man, he loved the Club deeply and Bramley-Moore would never have happened without him, full stop. He fought for the site, the design, and the hiring of an American architect. I hope in time that will be appreciated.”

Bill Kenwright. Credit: Everton.street (Instagram)
Bill Kenwright. Credit: Everton.street (Instagram)

Kindness and compassion

Away from the club’s official charity and its help for the community, Bill Kenwright was a quiet support to many, at home and away, showing kindness and compassion without the need for fanfare or thanks. When five-year-old Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery faced the battle with cancer in his all-too-short life, Bill invited him to Goodison to walk out onto pitch with his beloved Black Cats and donated £200,000 towards the appeal for his treatment in the USA. It was one of many: he donated £140,000 to Speedo Mick, and £250,000 to the Ukraine disaster fund (matching £250,000 already given by the club). He also donated money to 23-year-old Everton fan Laura Nuttall who sadly died from a brain tumour in May this year. 

Her mum, Nicola, said on Twitter (X): “We kept this quiet at the time, but when Laura was first having treatment in Germany for brain cancer Bill Kenwright donated £50k to make it possible. No fuss, no publicity, just genuine kindness from a real gentleman & a true blue.

“Rest in peace Bill & thank you.”

And so say all of us.



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