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Bill Mitchell, Our Friend Next Door 2/12/1951 – 14/4/2017

From the moment we came back to live in Cornwall in 2008 and serendipitously landed next door to Sue and Bill, we were made to feel welcome and loved. We were asked in for a drink even before we had moved in. On moving day, the pantechnicon couldn’t get up our drive, so next door’s fence came down and we moved in from their drive.

Breakfast in Charlotte’s Tea House, Truro

Bill’s big hugs were so lovely and happened sometimes out of the blue such as when we had gone to Plymouth to see Beautiful Journey  or London to see Babel and suddenly there behind us was Bill and then came the hugs.

It was some time before we began to realise that both Bill and Sue were something rather special in the art and theatre world! Bill was such a modest individual but over drinks and mince pies at Christmas or over dinner, he would regale us with wonderful stories of his work in the theatre, his designs and his inspirations opening our minds to new worlds.

I loved hearing the gentle whirr of the hand pushed mower as Bill mowed the lawn next door.  He was right, it did make for a lovelier lawn.

Bill nurtured everyone’s talents. He knew that I loved to knit for our Grandchildren and one day asked if I could knit something for him. WildWorks were working on a project in Kensington Palace and needed knitted Crown Jewels! Bill asked if I could make the orb. It took some ingenuity and several trials but I managed it and it was there in Kensington Palace! It was held by each person who sat in the knitted throne when they visited the installation.

A child holding the Orb that I knitted for the exhibition

Bill gave me a most precious gift the last time we were in the car with them. Somehow we were talking about names and I told him how I had always disliked my middle name only ever using my initial, H. He asked what it was and though I had told no-one for 50+ years, such was Bill that I did tell him. It’s Hilda (and this will come as news to many, many people!) Bill told me that the name means fighter and warrior and that it suited my nature and that I should be proud of it – so I have regained the name my Granny gave me and I can now wear the beautiful gold and tiny diamond H which I inherited from her. When I was a little girl my Granny told me that she would give the little H on a black ribbon if only I would say I liked my name. I was named after her – but I was a stubborn and rather horrid little girl and I wouldn’t say it. With Bill in mind, I will now own my name with pride and honour my Granny.

H for Hilda

Bill couldn’t eat onions, leeks or garlic so making a meal was sometimes a bit of a challenge. I don’t like lamb but the lovely Mr S does.  On one occasion I cooked a herby roast chicken in our house and Sue cooked lamb with garlic in theirs. We took the chicken round and Bill and I enjoyed that while Sue and my Mr S loved the lamb dinner.

Latterly, when Bill was unwell, he fancied puddings more than a roast dinner. He put in a special request for Treacle Tart, Lemon Sponge and Syrup Sponge and told me when we met over the garden fence that the puddings were, ‘Nectar; pure ambrosia.”

It was Bill who introduced me to Claire Ingleheart in whose choirs I have been singing ever since and with whose choirs I took part in Heligan 100. It was Bill who introduced us to the magic of community and landscape theatre through his wonderful WildWorks productions and it is Bill we will say goodbye to on Friday 5th May along with the hundreds of others who loved him.

Mecanopsis, a blue Poppy

Sue told me recently that Bill thought blue was the colour of memory, the Underworld, the blue yonder, ‘into the blue…’ so this beautiful blue Poppy, from our garden, is for Bill, with love.

For those who would like to know more about Bill’s professional life, these obituaries and the video tell the story:

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/apr/18/bill-mitchell-obituary

http://www.cornwalllive.com/bill-mitchell-wildwork-s-critically-acclaimed-artistic-director-dies-aged-65-after-cancer-battle/story-30272730-detail/story.html

 

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