Howard Raynor, who has died aged just 49, was a remarkable person in many different ways. Although he started his early career in the RAF, his true love was in delivering exceptional performances initially through the live performing arts in Northampton and London, but much later through his own training business in Manchester.
His theatre management career began at Derngate in Northampton in 1983 as a house manager, but he left three years later to perform a similar role at The Barbican before returning to Derngate in 1989 as Deputy General Manager. In 1993, when the theatre became a charitable trust, Howard became Chief Executive and led the organisation through one of its most artistically and financially successful periods, laying the groundwork for a major Lottery refurbishment and merger with the Royal Theatre which occurred soon after his departure. His passion for exceptional customer service and artistic presentation led to many seminal moments for those he led: Derngate was one of the first theatres in the UK to achieve the Investors in People Award, and brought many artistic firsts to Northampton, including the performances by the Perm State Ballet of Russia and Glyndebourne Touring Opera.
In 1998 Howard moved to Manchester as CEO of the Bridgewater Hall. His passion for Manchester always shone through as he lit up the lives of anyone he met and countless others who attended concerts and events during his time at the Hall. Leaving the Hall in 2005 to set up his own business, World Class Service, Howard’s passion for the arts burned ever brighter as his company inspired venues across the British Isles to deliver outstanding customer service. Promoting the BBC’s The Blue Planet Live! tours in 2006 and 2008, Howard and the team at WCS went on to produce Polar, a celebration of life at the ends of the earth through film and classical music. In January 2011, Howard could be seen beaming away in the audience at the World Premiere. And just seven days before his untimely death, he was inspiring the management of Manchester Airport at the Lowry Hotel.
Howard will always be fondly remembered as a wonderful man, colleague, inspiration, mentor and friend. His reputation as a thoughtful, fair and inspirational leader was well deserved. Whilst he expected great things of the people around him, he was always concerned for their personal well-being and development. He had a huge appetite for personal development which in the mid 90s led to him studying for an MBA at Cranfield University. He continued to learn through voracious reading of world-renowned management gurus, and experimenting with and developing their philosophies through his own life and at work.
For a decade Howard was a stalwart writer of management features for ArtsProfessional and was never afraid of being too controversial – not because he wanted to raise eyebrows, but because he had a vision that people could be exceptional in their everyday lives. It is a sad irony that in 2007, Howard wrote an article to explain the difference between management and leadership for ArtsProfessional to commemorate the premature death (also by cancer) of his hero, Tony Wilson of Factory Records and the Haçienda nightclub in Manchester. Wilson, known throughout the north west as Mr Manchester, has sadly been followed by one of his most ardent supporters, leaving Manchester, Northampton and beyond with another sad loss.
Howard leaves his wife, Teresa and their two sons, Gregg and Hayden.