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ROY BRIERLEY 1941-2006

Roger Kelly
I first met Roy at The Questors over 30 years ago as a fellow member of The Minack Theatre Touring Company’s Publicity and Car Parking team. This meant plastering cars with handbills during the day and in the evening directing traffic and convincing people they were not going to back over the edge of a cliff.

In successive tours I assisted and eventually took over tour management. My memories here are not so much of the actual tours as the “Recce” trips taken around Easter with Roy and others. These were ostensibly to sort out theatre and accommodation arrangements but mostly we reconnoitred the better pubs and restaurants of Western Cornwall.

In more recent years it has been our shared enthusiasm for model railways that has always given us something to talk about when propping up The Grapevine Bar. It is sad that his untimely death prevented him completing what was turning out to be a layout, which any of us with this hobby would have been proud of.

This is hardly surprising as Roy was a skilled craftsman and worked for many members of The Questors in their homes. My wife Wendi and I were not only pleased with the work but enjoyed Roy’s company on more than one occasion. We both have a fond memory of when he came down to do the tiling in the kitchen of a small flat we have at the coast. That evening we went out to celebrate the completion of not just the kitchen, but also Wendi and my recent marriage. At Roy’s insistence we consumed a good quantity of Champagne and stayed late at the restaurant — to discover to our dismay that, in Sussex in those days, the street lights went out at midnight and we had to stagger home in the dark.

However, for The Questors family it is the work Roy did in creating the building we all now know that is important. Between 1977 and the early 1990s his company Bamford and Brierley were engaged in a number of projects. I managed most of them and again it was a pleasure to work with Roy. First was the extension of the bar and wardrobe plus the creation of a new lower foyer. Roy actually laid the concrete floor in the Grapevine Bar! In the ensuing years came the building of the scenery construction workshop and current office area: the building of the toilets which removed from The Questors the blight of most places of entertainment — long queues at the ladies. In addition, Roy carried out many tasks of construction as an individual member including the latter stages of the project to improve access for the disabled — a task which still has to be completed in some areas and Roy has made a bequest to The Questors which I hope will permit further progress.

There is a fancy Latin phrase which I will not attempt, but translated it says “for his memorial look around you.” This is certainly true of Roy and the bricks and mortar of The Questors Theatre.

Chris Ifould

At lunchtime on Sunday, the day before Roy’s funeral, I took my pint to one end of the window seat in The Grapevine. Peter Field was busy with some paperwork at the other end. He was about to work on a showcase with a group of actors who have recently auditioned successfully for the acting group but not yet made their stage debuts. Our conversation touched on that peculiar state of isolation, even alienation, that often occurs during this time in people’s early experience of The Questors and that persuades many of them to drift away. It is possible to be very lonely in our very popular bar.

Welcoming newcomers was part of the quiet service that Roy gave to The Questors, from his habitual perch near the Grapevine’s entrance. It was one that he did for me and that I saw him doing for others: a simple “Hello. How are you? I’ve seen you in here a couple of times.”

I looked across the bar from where I had sat, feeling increasingly alone, several years ago on several Sundays before Roy said “hello.” Nigel Worsley and Chris Tomlin were talking across the space where Roy should have been and, for a wistful while, that space seemed all the more empty. If only his absence will remind me to pick up the mantle and perhaps try to talk to a few souls in The Grapevine who look lost and lonely, then that might be how I can best remember him, because I was missing him already.

[The Questors Club Magazine 11, June 2006]