It was with deepest regret that we heard this week of the death of Lancaster 'boulevardier' Michael Nunn, who, among his many accomplishments, was the Principal Virtual-Lancaster Arts Correspondent from 2003 - 2006.
Michael was an accomplished and sensitive human who truly deserved the title 'renaissance man'. Michael found a haven in Lancaster and he was keen to give back to the community he had found his home in. His energy and productivity were legendary and his many erudite and witty reviews of theatre, music, books and train journeys are still treasured in both our archives and those of the Lancaster Guardian and Morecambe Visitor - despite his dyslexia, which he overcame with help from his partner and constant companion John Burkinshaw - who worked alongside him as the Virtual-Lancaster Staff Photographer. Michael was tremendous fun and an entertaining conversationalist who loved to socialise and party.
He was responsible for recognising and encouraging many budding artists in their careers. He was strongly supportive of local arts organisations and keen to give public recognition to their efforts where it was it was due.
Michael was also a keen railway enthusiast and a ready participant in steam and scenic train excursions across the region. You can read one of his train journey reviews here.
Michael and his partner John Burkinshaw celebrated one of the earliest Civil Partnership ceremonies in the UK at the Ashton Memorial, in June 2006, and I was priviliged to be invited as their Matron of Honour. As the registrar noted, they had been together for 7 years, 9 months, 28 days, sixteen hours and three minutes.
Guests were entertained during the service by a specially commissioned opretta:
Mozart wrote Bastienn und Bastienne in 1768 when he was only 12 years old. The libretto was based on Ben Crick's translation from the German - and was adapated specially (as Jules and Sandy) for the occasion by Michael and John with assistance from the Director, Ben Muir (of Kampus/Duke of Lancaster fame and other theatrical venues too). They claimed it as a world premiere of this story of the couple whose relationship begins to founder in the shoals of jealousy and pride before being guided to safe harbour by a combination of wisdom, guile and finally, open hearted love.
The musicians were the Skipton Building Society Camerata, directed by Ben Crick, with Michael himself joining them on the harpsichord. They performed with vivacity and wit and I and the all the other guests were both enchanted and tickled. Michael edited, arranged and realised all the music himself except the Purcell Golden Sonata (at the Signing). The Latin Grace - Gloria patri et filio.. - by Richard Dering (1580 - 1632) was the world premiere of his arrangement from original sources. Dering was the topic of Michael's Durham Music BA dissertation.
He told me that to have the community and civil authority turn out in their best clothes in one of Lancaster's most prestigious venues to officially recognise, honour and celebrate his love was an event of the deepest meaning and joy to him. It was truly an unforgettable day. And deeply moving to see two such generous-hearted souls given their due recognition. Many of us present were old enough to remember a time when recognition might have resulted in a jail sentence. But here we all were, with champagne and rosebuds.
Michael was diagnosed with tuberculosis during his time working with Virtual-Lancaster. With a long and difficult course of treatment his health improved for several years, but his illness took a heavy toll. Undeterred, and with John's constant support and a huge appetite for life, he carried on supporting local arts for as long as he was able, directing and performing in local historical and amateur drama and lending his talents at all levels to many local cultural events. Sadly, his health finally failed him and he passed away peacefully from a lung infection at Wythenshawe Hospital last Wednesday evening.
Michael was a Character. A star. Special. His contribution to Lancaster society and culture was outstanding. On behalf of the Virtual-Lancaster team and myself, we extend our deepest condolences to his husband John and to all who knew and loved him. We will remember and miss him.