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A Tribute to Kevin Ryan

An alumnus and good friend of LU Arts and Loughborough University sadly died last week. Kevin Ryan was known to many as the Director of Loughborough’s community arts organisation, Charnwood Arts, but he was so much more than that. He was also a gifted photographer and someone whose whole life was dedicated to creativity, whether that be through his own photography or by encouraging as many people as possible to participate in the arts.

Nick Slater, Director of LU Arts commented:

"People like Kevin are the heartbeat of towns like Loughborough. His creativity, his energy and his humanity activated so many fantastic things in the town and brought so many people together through the arts. It was a real pleasure to work with him on projects such as Radar’s Market Town programme where his generosity, his creativity, his energy and humour shone through."

Kevin’s association with Loughborough University began as a student here, graduating with a degree in Social Administration in 1984 as well as being a recipient of the T S Shipman prize. Kevin’s real passion was creativity and community and in 1991 he began his 29-year tenure as CEO of Charnwood Arts. He became a familiar face in town and added so much to its cultural life with the most prominent events being the annual Picnic in the Park and Mela. 

As well as working in partnership with LU Arts, Kevin also worked with a number of academics at the University. One particularly fruitful relationship was with Prof. Maggie O’Neill, then in the Department of Social Sciences and now Professor of Sociology and Head of Department at University College Cork. They worked together closely on several projects including ‘A Sense of Belonging’ which explored forced migration and belonging using participatory arts and participatory action research. Maggie commented:

"He was a tour de force, a brilliant photographer and passionate community artist, committed to social justice in all its forms, a truly inspiring, charismatic and wonderful human being."

Kevin was also an important member of the University Arts and Events Steering Group. He sat on this with his friend Jon Walker (Director of Enterprise Development at the University) whose friendly rivalry in the Swan and Rushes weekly pub quiz was always a topic of conversation. Jon commented:

"Kevin’s contribution as a gifted photographer, a leading participatory arts professional and a tireless community activist has been simply extraordinary."

In recent years, much of Kevin’s time was devoted to trying to find a more visible, and fit for purpose home for Charnwood Arts. Kevin has been campaigning and fundraising for Charnwood Arts to move into the Generator, the former art school building, and it would be a fitting tribute if this was now realised.

Our thoughts are with Kevin’s at this sad time: his wife, Frances; his four children Charlotte, Miffy, Osh and Brendan; and, his four grandchildren.