'Superb' city theatre stalwart Anne Giles dies, aged 81

Anne Giles, who was a longstanding member of the Sewell Barn Theatre, has died age 81.

Anne Giles, who was a longstanding member of the Sewell Barn Theatre, has died age 81. - Credit: Sewell Barn Theatre Company

A woman who made the theatre her "second home" and dedicated the majority of her life to the Norwich arts scene, has died just hours after turning 81. 

Anne Giles was born in Nuneaton, Leicestershire, on June 18, 1941 to parents John and Winifred Giles.

Long term friend and colleague to Anne for more than 40 years, Robert Little, pays tribute to her life and "superb" work in the city's theatre scene.

The 62-year-old said: "Anne moved to Norfolk back in the 60s with her mother.

Anne Giles performing in her last production as Cora in "Waiting in the Wings" in July 2019.

Anne Giles performing in her last production as Cora in 'Waiting in the Wings' in July 2019. - Credit: Sewell Barn Theatre Company

"She originally lived in east Dereham before her work at the time, as a shorthand typist, brought her to Norwich in the late 70s.

"She lived in a block of flats in Causeway Close in Heigham Grove.

"Shortly after arriving in Norwich, Anne became the events manager for what was the Tiebreak Theatre at Norwich Arts Centre, which is where we met.

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"Anne would book auditions for actors, find rehearsal venues for us and generally keep the place going. She did that for about 17 years."

Anne's passion was the stage and she spent much of her free time travelling the country to watch shows. 

She visited the Sewell Barn Theatre Company in 1988 where she watched Robert perform in 'The Good Soldier Schweik' - and it sparked the next act in her life.

Robert explained: "After seeing the show Anne was so impressed by the set up that she decided the Sewell Barn Theatre was where she wanted to be.

Anne Giles dedicated her life to theatre, starting out with Tiebreak Theatre back in the early 80s.

Anne Giles dedicated her life to theatre, starting out with Tiebreak Theatre back in the early 80s. - Credit: Sewell Barn Theatre Company

"A year later she made her debut in a show called 'Marat/Sade' and the theatre soon became her second home.

"Even after she officially retired in the early 90s she would volunteer at the theatre.

"Anne's contribution to the theatre can't be underestimated - she did everything.

"When she wasn't performing she would take customer's tickets, show them to their seats or serve out drinks.

"When she was performing she was superb. She had a huge catalogue of work."

Anne Giles had a hand in 89 productions at Sewell Barn Theatre Company.

Anne Giles had a hand in 89 productions at Sewell Barn Theatre Company. - Credit: Sewell Barn Theatre Company

Over the many years Anne was part of Sewell Barn Theatre in NR3 she performed in 34 productions.

She also stage managed 29 and had a hand in another 26 - sorting out either costumes or props.

A couple of years later Anne was appointed treasurer and then bookings manager. 

Having held those roles she was then made marketing coordinator.

Robert, who is the current chairman of the trust at the theatre in Constitution Hill, worked with Anne in multiple shows.

He said: "Anne would always put in an extra shift. It's just the type of person she was.

"She could turn herself into any cog in the machine you needed her to be. And she'd always have a smile on her face.

"Whenever possible she just wanted to be in and around the theatre."

Anne's love for the theatre and performing was no more evident than when she was diagnosed with cancer in the early 2000s.

Anne Giles died at Priscilla Bacon Lodge on June 19.

Anne Giles died at Priscilla Bacon Lodge on June 19. - Credit: Sewell Barn Theatre Company

Robert said: "I remember she had just had surgery but never one to feel sorry for herself, she was actually learning a part for an upcoming play.

"However after being in remission for a number of years the cancer came back more aggressively.

"She was soon taken into the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) for some tests and treatments.

"When I saw Anne last she actually apologised to me because she had to pull out of an upcoming production even though she was suffering from cancer - that really sums her character up."

Anne was moved from Causeway Close to Priscilla Bacon Care Lodge in Unthank Road on June 9.

She would die peacefully just hours after her 81st birthday at 4.30am on June 19.

Anne Giles in the production "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime".

Anne Giles in the production 'Lord Arthur Savile's Crime'. - Credit: Sewell Barn Theatre Company

Robert added: "I was very honoured in that Anne asked me to organise her memorial before she died, as she requested, at the Sewell Barn Theatre.

"Anne was so well loved and respected in the theatre scene.

"She cared immensely about what she did and put all her effort into making sure it was done correctly.

"Her funeral was at Earlham Road Crematorium on July 1 and it was full with people from across the theatre family."

Anne leaves behind her son, Allan Layzell.