Theatre-lover Julian leaves lasting legacy

Julian Sluggett
Julian Sluggett

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A MUCH-LOVED figure and leader in the performing arts sector has died.

Julian Sluggett, who helped to form the annual arts festival WemsFest was also associated with groups including Titchfield Festival Theatre and Youth Theatre and Westbourne’s Rogues & Vagabonds.

Julian died peacefully on August 23 aged 72 at King’s Lodge Nursing Home after suffering from prolonged illnesses, including oesophageal cancer.

Passionate about drama in education and getting children interested in theatre, Julian began his career in Exeter and then at The Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

There he met his wife Christine West, later mother to his two sons, Adam Blake and Corin West.

The pair encouraged other drama teachers to form Shestring Theatre for Children which toured various locations across the south coast, the Lake District and Ireland.

Julian and Christine moved into Crookham Youth Club which provided a greater space for their projects. However, the popularity of their venture soon meant another move and Julian succeeded in obtaining John Betjeman’s support to retain and develop the recently closed 100-year-old West End Junior School in Aldershot.

Julian soon became the first director of West End Centre. The directors formed the Combined Hampshire and Small Scale Touring Theatre circuit. His legacy, the thriving community arts centre is now commonly known as ‘The Westy’.

In the 1980s Julian met his new partner Maggie Hall.

The pair moved to Southbourne due to Julian’s involvement with the Titchfield centres. After Maggie died in 2005, Julian returned to drama teaching until facing ill health in 2015.

At the time, he was in high demand as a supply teacher in schools.

Julian moved to Westbourne which is where he established WemsFest with Mark Ringwood with a lottery grant.

He was said to be a person who could inspire creative work many hadn’t known they were capable of.

He was dubbed as the life of any party who was fun to be with and around, could draw a crowd with his infectious personality and always included everyone.