One of the most influential figures in the modern cultural life of Chester, Dr Bill Hughes, has died aged 82 after a long illness.

For 40 years, from 1967 to 2007, Bill Hughes was an inspirational and greatly respected teacher in the English Department at Chester College (later the University of Chester), rising to become principal lecturer and deputy head of English. He was also the institution’s first Information Officer, responsible for all its publicity and promotional activities.

During these years, Bill Hughes was a significant force in developing and cementing relations between ‘town and gown’. With John Richards, he co-founded the annual High Sheriff’s Prize for Literature. He was a key player, alongside John Elsley, in the Chester Literature Festival from its foundation in the 1980s, planning and organising for each autumn a programme of events which brought a galaxy of big names to the city.

The Literature Festival, and the Chester Music Festival (founded in the 1970s) in which Bill was also involved, were taken over by Chester Performs in 2012 on the Board of which Bill served as Vice-Chair for several years.

Chester Performs had been originally set up in 2005 to create a successor to Chester’s Gateway Theatre and as one of the founding members Bill was closely involved in establishing the Open Air Theatre in 2010.

Then, in retirement, Bill worked with a group of like-minded people to bring into being what we now know as Storyhouse. He was chair of the Storyhouse Board for three years, a period which saw the completion of the award-winning building and a hugely successful first year. Bill was enormously proud of Storyhouse and he was delighted when the late Queen came to open it officially in 2018.

In 2008 Bill Hughes was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in English, and in 2015 he was made a Doctor of Letters by the university in the city’s cathedral.

Bill was a vivacious and extraordinarily talented man – musician, singer, actor, linguist, cricketer, writer, lecturer, after-dinner speaker and all-round impresario. A familiar face about the city, Bill will be sadly missed by many students, colleagues and friends.

He leaves behind his wife, Professor Anna Sutton, his two sons Geraint and Dafydd by his late wife Margaret who predeceased him in 2003, and five grandchildren.

Following a private funeral, there will be a memorial service for Bill in the University Chapel on Friday, December 8, at 2.30pm, to which all former colleagues and friends are invited.