Plaques will honour famous Great Yarmouth men

PUBLISHED: 13:16 04 January 2013

Sir Kenneth MacMillan. Photo: Anthony Crickmay.

Sir Kenneth MacMillan. Photo: Anthony Crickmay.


A LEADING ballet dancer and choreographer and a campaigning environmentalist are set to be honoured in their home town of Great Yarmouth with a pair of commemorative plaques.

Sir Kenneth MacMillan, whose passion for ballet was nurtured in the town, and Andrew Lees, who helped protect habitats across the country through his career as a conservationist, both grew up in Great Yarmouth and will be remembered through the blue plates, that are being placed by the local History and Archaeological Society.

Sir Kenneth’s plaque will be fixed to the Hollywood Cinema in Marine Parade, which formerly housed Great Yarmouth’s Little Theatre where he took dance lessons with Miss Jean Boulton.

Mr Lees’ plaque will be placed at the Pub on the Prom in Marine Parade, and opposite the Hollywood Cinema, near to where he lived.

Although born in Scotland, Sir Kenneth’s family moved back to their native Norfolk due to their impoverished circumstances and moved in with his aunt in Runham Vauxhall.

He attended Northgate Junior School and from an early age showed a love of dancing.

As a youngster he would busk for tourists and holidaymakers in front of the Garibaldi Hotel with displays of the country dancing he learnt in Scotland.

He won talent competitions at the Britannia Pier and took up lessons with Miss Boulton, but it was the death of his mother that led to his move into professional work.

A noted dance teacher, Miss Phyliss Adams, recognised his great talent and became his surrogate mother, encouraging him to pursue his dream career in ballet.

At 15 Sir Kenneth auditioned at Sadler’s Wells Ballet School and won a scholarship.

He went on to perform for several years, including a tour of America, and gained critical acclaim.

But he was prone to stage fright and turned to choreography, making an international name for himself with his moving works.

Sir Kenneth died in 1992 aged 62 after collapsing back stage at the Royal Opera House during a performance of his three-act ballet Mayerling.

Mr Lees was born at Sandown Nursing Home in Yarmouth and was a true son of Norfolk who had a great passion for its big skies and low-lying landscape.

Most of all he loved its rivers, streams, dykes, marshes and fens and it was on the Broads where he was happiest.

Keen to explore the science of the natural world he enrolled at the University of Wales to study zoology, botany and philosophy and after graduating with honours went on to work as a field scientist with the Nature Conservancy Council, which had the responsibility of protecting Britain’s natural environment by designating areas as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Through his work he stopped Crymlyn Bog in Wales being turned into a rubbish tip and he successfully campaigned to get it recognised as an SSSI.

This was his first environmental campaign success and after returning to his native Norfolk he went on to lobby government to protect Halvergate Marshes and other areas of the Broads.

Just before Christmas in 1994 he travelled to the island of Madagascar to make a documentary film as part of a campaign and tragically died, aged 45, while out on a shoot.

On New Year’s Eve he set out into a forest alone to film a final sequence but he failed to return.

An autopsy later showed he died from heat exhaustion.

Both plaques will be fixed into place by society members on January 14.

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