John Allen was the youngest member of the Bridgwater Arts Centre when it was founded as the first of its kind in 1946. He went on to devote much of his life to it and in later years became the Chairman. His death in 2017 robbed the town of its final connection with a living embodiment of those pioneering years of the 1940’s. But On April 5th 2018 the Mayor of Bridgwater, Graham Granter, unveiled a brand new portrait of John Allen in the Art Centre Gallery as a permanent tribute to the man who devoted so much of his life to the place.
The painting was done by Lesley Nicholls of the Chandos Society of Artists and it’s unveiling launched a month long exhibition by the long standing group of local enthusiasts who have for many years been an integral part of the Arts Centre.
John Allen lived in Wembdon and for most of his working life was employed by the British Council in Exeter and Bristol. He retired to Wembdon Hill and re-established his links with the Art Centre in the 1980’s. John was an enthusiast for the 18th century, especially the music of Mozart and Purcell and a keen antiques collector.
Westover Councillors Brian Smedley and Kathy Pearce were present at the event. Brian remembers “I was on the Board of the Art Centre along with John during the 1980’s. He was always very fair and i never saw him angry. He was also extremely dedicated to the Art Centre. For instance at the time, while I’m sure he wasn’t a fan of the rock music that we put on, I know he understood it was an equal form of art and in fact conceded that the bar take on the rock events actually subsidised much of the Classical Music programme of the day. “
As a fitting tribute, the Westover councillors stayed for the Art Centre’s Quiz Evening and won it.