The Society of British Theatre Designers

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Paul Brown 1960 – 2017:

Paul Brown

We are deeply saddened to announce the loss of Paul Brown, one of the boldest and most innovative contemporary performance designers from the UK whose iconic work continued to push the boundaries of what seemed possible whilst entirely honouring the intentions of the operas and plays he designed for.

As a loyal member of SBTD he continually contributed his work to our exhibitions and catalogues, inspiring countless designers from the generations that followed him.

In an interview with our colleagues Kate Burnett and Sophie Jump for the Collaborators catalogue, he humorously, but we might argue accurately, described what we do as ‘Craft with a bit of a gob on’.

If you would like to contribute your own memories of Paul or his work, please send them to editor@theatredesign.org.uk and we will endeavour to include them in a special issue of Blue Pages, our print journal which we will be producing to honour him.

At this time our thoughts are with Paul’s family and friends.

This tribute from Sean Crowley, Director of Drama at Royal Welsh College, Chair of our management committee and a personal friend of Paul’s is something we would like to share with you in the meantime.

It was with great sadness that I heard today of the death of Paul Brown on November 13th 2017.

I had known he had been terminally ill for 3 weeks as he phoned me unexpectedly and told me had been given 2 months to 2 years to live. He didn’t want any sympathy, he had accepted his fate. He joked that the chemotherapy had ruined his hair.

He wanted to leave the College books, materials and odds and ends from his studio, but wanted me to come to meet him in his house in London to look through to make sure that I wanted this. I ensured him I would accept anything from him (which I would have) but planned to meet on November 2nd. I received a text from him on the 1st postponing this meeting and proposing an alternative for after the 20th. I feared the worst.

When I received a text from Ros Coombes last night I knew immediately what it was.

I first met Paul in his then dilapidated house in Cloudsley Place in 1992 joining Ros Coombes to model make for Padmaviti at the Bastille. It seems like I worked there for countless years, down in the basement studio but it was probably no more than three years. But what an intense and wonderfully inspiring time, I always arrived around 8.00 am and Ros around 9.00am, we would wake Paul after 10 with a breakfast of coffee and a few cigarettes, knowing he had worked through until 4 am drawing the outlines for his incredible complex costume designs. The Day then started properly with us playing the Cowbridge Male Voice Choirs recording of “the Rhythm of Life” turned up to full volume and all joining in with the Dooby Dooby chorus.

He was a remarkable person and the memories of my time working are incredibly vivid, I learnt and laughed so much and made glorious models for beautiful designs. On leaving London to return to Wales I continued to make figures for Paul and to meet him in London or on the times he was passing through Cardiff to visit his family or Cardiff Theatrical Services and later Bay Productions.

His profile as a designer is huge and his continued support of and participation with the SBTD in award winning Prague Quadrennials and National Exhibitions was exceptional. He was a genius and also a very real and gentle person.

Paul visited the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama on several occasions spending precious time with my students; We were honoured to make him a Fellow of our College in 2001 and whenever possible he came to our design exhibitions in London sharing his warmth with the graduates. All who knew him and worked with him will miss him; the memory of his remarkable work and kindness will live on.