Tributes paid to Buxton’s Gilbert and Sullivan Festival founder

Ian Smith, his son Neil and wife Janet are the organisers of the massively successful Gilbert and Sullivan Festival held in Buxton each August.  29 June 2012.'Picture Bruce Rollinson
Ian Smith, his son Neil and wife Janet are the organisers of the massively successful Gilbert and Sullivan Festival held in Buxton each August. 29 June 2012.'Picture Bruce Rollinson

Tributes have been paid to the founder of the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival whose ‘passion and energy made a huge impact over the years’.

Ian Smith was the founder, chairman and artistic director of the world-famous International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival which has been held in Buxton since 1994.

He died on November 22 aged 80 but leaves behind him a legacy of entertainment that has delighted thousands over the years.

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Paul Kerryson CEO of Buxton Opera House said: “We were greatly saddened to hear that Ian has passed away.

“His passion and energy has made a huge impact over the years, bringing local and worldwide Gilbert and Sullivan enthusiasts to Buxton since 1994.

“Ian will be greatly missed, and I’m sure that friends, supporters and colleagues will make next summer’s Gilbert and Sullivan season at Buxton Opera House a fitting celebration of Ian’s wonderful legacy.”

The G&S Festival will continue with Ian’s family and the team with plans already prepared for 2020 when it will return to the Buxton Opera House between August 1 and 8.

Bernard Lockett from the festival said: “Ian’s main love was Gilbert & Sullivan. Throughout his life, Ian played all the G&S “patter roles” and formed his own amateur G&S Society - The West Yorkshire Savoyards and with his passion for travel took them to perform around the UK, Ireland, America and Hungary.

“In 1994 Ian founded the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Buxton. Today the annual Festival takes place in Buxton Opera House and The Royal Hall Harrogate. This unique event attracts thousands of visitors from all around world.

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“Ian created the professional National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company to perform at the Festival and this acclaimed company now also tour the UK every year.”

The Halifax businessman began life as a local journalist before starting his own businesses in sewing and knitting to help the dying industry then launched a global travel company running major exhibitions and conferences.

He leaves wife Janet and children Belinda, Neil, Oliver Henry and Charles.