Tribute has been paid to a ‘passionate’ former manager at Skegness’ Embassy Theatre and ‘inspirational’ father following his death, aged 49.
Steve Rushforth lost his long-term battle with leukaemia on Sunday, August 16, dying peacefully in the company of his family. His funeral was held on Friday.
Mr Rushforth came to the Embassy from Newark’s Palace Theatre in 1997, joining as a technical manager. He would stay until early 2014, having risen to the level of team leader for the foreshore and Embassy Theatre.
Mr Rushforth’s career in the arts followed about 10 years in the Royal Air Force, where he was a member of the ground crew working in communications; his time there included a posting overseas for the first Gulf War.
When Mr Rushforth was diagnosed with leukaemia about 20 years ago, he left the Air Force and moved into theatre, a long-held passion of his.
His son, Adam, 24, spoke of his passion for the art form, saying his favourite thing to do was stand at the top of the auditorium, watch people come in and then leave with ‘big grins on their face’.
He said: “It was more to do with the audience and being able to treat them to the experience of theatre.”
He added: “You would always see him in the foyer meeting and greeting people as they came in and out.”
In light of his battle against leukaemia, Adam said: “He was definitely the strongest person I know. Most of the time you couldn’t tell he was ill because he had put that much effort into trying to get better. He really battled through it.”
He added: “He as a true inspiration.”
Step-daughter Holly Wathall, 19, also paid tribute to Mr Rushforth’s commitment to the Embassy, saying ‘he dedicated his whole life to the theatre’.
“He made it what it is today,” she said.
On a personal note, he inspired her to pursue a career in the arts. Holly has just graduated from the Nottingham-based Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama (MADD).
She said: “He let me do all the pantos. He taught me so much about the theatre.”
She added: “I would not be doing what I’m doing today if it wasn’t for him.”
Carl Lawrence, marketing co-ordinator at the Embassy, worked with Mr Rushforth from his arrival at the theatre in 1997, saying: “He lived and breathed the Embassy.”
He said: “His passion was always there for what he did.”
A post on the Embassy’s Facebook page breaking news of Mr Rushforth’s death read: “Steve will never be forgotten for the tremendous work he did at the Embassy Theatre and the impact he made on Skegness and its community.”
Janice Sutton, principal at the Janice Sutton Theatre School, paid tribute to his ambition for the Embassy.
She said: “I believe he put the jewel in the crown for East Lindsey with his input at the Embassy Theatre.”