Chichester mourns a key man in some of our finest sitcoms
A Chichester man who played a key behind-the-scenes role in the great British TV sitcoms of the 70s and 80s has died at the age of 75.
John Kilby, who was married to Chichester city and district councillor Jane Kilby, counted among his credits Steptoe & Son, Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served, Hi-de-Hi! and Not The Nine O’Clock News. He also directed all ten years of Alas Smith and Jones, a Not The Nine O’Clock News spin-off starring Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones.
Born in Hyde, just outside Manchester, John started out in amdram in Stockport. His first professional role as an actor was as a Teddy Boy in the first six months of Coronation Street. He then worked at the Manchester Royal Theatre where he met Joan Littlewood who asked him to come to London to be her assistant on her new production, Oh! What a Lovely War.
After this, he joined the BBC where he remained for 40 years in comedy and light entertainment.
“He started on Steptoe & Son as assistant floor manager and then he was assistant director on the second series of Fawlty Towers.”
He also worked on Open All Hours and then he teamed up with Jimmy Perry and David Croft and worked with them on Hi-de-Hi! In 1983 John won a best-comedy series BAFTA.
“He worked on Not The Nine O’Clock News and then he directed the whole ten years of
Alas Smith and Jones. He was really peeved about that. Every year he was nominated for a BAFTA and every year, Victoria Wood would beat him!”
John retired in the late 1990s. His last major production was the huge community production of Barchester at Chichester Festival Theatre in the millennium year, on which he also worked with the then Chichester Festival Youth Theatre director Andy Brereton.
Andy is now a paramedic, and it was Andy who turned up when Mrs Kilby called the emergency services. “It was good to see a friendly face in the circumstances. John died of a massive heart attack. He didn’t know anything about it and he didn’t suffer.”