Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Former engineer Kevin Crawley made an impressive contribution to village life in Kemsing

Kevin Crawley encapsulated the true meaning of ‘community spirit’ in an era when many villages are struggling to maintain clubs and organisations through lack of support. For example, Kevin joined the Kemsing Players in 1967 and was involved in 96 productions. he also supported local scout movements and arranged boats trips for them on a canal he helped maintain. He was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago but continued to support the village drama group before he passed away on 26 March at the age of 82. Here, two of his friends pay tribute to his impressive contributions to life in Kemsing and beyond

John Stewart writes:

Kevin Crawley, my very good friend of 20 years, passed away after a long and very unpleasant illness, He bore this – at least to the outside world – with his usual stoicism, and even humour at times.

For several months last year, he had to wear a spinal support brace around his body which he called his ‘Ninja Turtle’ outfit! His treatment was complicated, so many different types of injections and pills to be taken at so many different intervals – he solved this by creating an Excel spreadsheet of medicines and dates – always the engineer.

Before he was struck down by multiple myeloma about a year ago, he was one of the most busy and active people in their 80s I have ever encountered. As well as his long-time involvement in the Kemsing Players, he was a leading light for the Wey and Arun Canal Trust for many years, he and Pat drove the one hour, 50 miles each way, journey regularly, sometimes two or three times a week, helping to run boats on the restored canal.

He designed and conducted their crew training sessions and even designed a new canal boat which is now running on the canal.

Pat and he were also very involved in the local Scouts movement up to a few years ago.

Kevin was a top engineer, both electrical and mechanical. He had just moved to Kemsing in 1967 when he was told that the Kemsing Players were desperately looking for someone to do the lighting for a production. From that time on he never looked back, getting involved in lighting, set design and construction (and many other aspects, including the design of a rotating stage for Noises Off in 1998, and more than once he took on the role of Stage Manager).

He was involved in no less than 96 productions up to and including our next play The Hollow – despite everything he was going through, he delivered the conservatory design on 16 February. His total productions would have been over 100, but he spent 1972 to 1974 working on assignment in Iran (Persia).

Kevin was meticulous in everything he did, to work with him was inspiring. When I got involved in set design in 2003 with Communicating Doors, I realised he knew every inch of St Edith Hall in Kemsing.

Many times, he saved us money just by his experience and instinctive grasp of technical detail. I will really miss walking round to his house, looking forward to getting down to a new production design. He was a good teacher and we built up a good working relationship over the 30 productions we designed together.

The high point of working together always came with the prebuilt set parts. Starting with Kevin’s detailed designs and working with the large collection of tools in his garage, in all weathers we, together with a few members (Doug, Martin, Lawrence and Andy) produced, amongst many others; a large dining table and two posh staircases (Rebecca); two-story sets (Ladykillers and Jacobs Crackers); a double bed (Jacob’s Crackers) and a barn (Blue Remembered Hills).

However, the real triumphs were a piano (Quartet); and a railway carriage (Murder on the Otford Express), plus a toilet cabin which had to be attached to a hot air balloon and lifted in the air! (Are You being Served?). Many of these were too large to transport, so Kevin always carefully marked each part, then they were flat packed and reassembled in the Hall.

All our projects were urged along by Kevin’s warm humour and inexhaustible store of anecdotes from his career and stories of previous productions.

Other memories include getting rid of the unplayable piano which for many years had to be manhandled off the stage before any set building could begin. In 2012 we were able to get rid of it which gave rise to my personal favourite photo of Kevin, tunefully cutting the strings before demolition!

Kevin will be truly missed by the Kemsing Players, his straight-talking enthusiasm, creativity and energy have inspired us to some outstanding stage designs and productions for well over 50 years. He left us a legacy which we should be proud of. I will personally miss him very much indeed.

 Martin Watt writes:

My memories of Kevin start back in the summer of 1989 when the Kemsing Sports Association produced a folded A3 newsletter about what was going on to raise funds for the pavilion. Kevin had put a small advert on the back saying would anybody like to help him with the lighting of the Kemsing Players productions. I answered that and have never looked back!

My first production was Robinson Crusoe in Nov 1989 where I am listed as one of Kevin’s assistants. Since then I have done some 30 years of productions with Kevin. He had his own way of doing things, very traditional, very detailed and always with humour. I have learnt a lot of how to light productions on a small scale with particular reference obviously to St Edith Hall but also in set building, proscenium arch rigging, and all the vagaries that go with putting on a production of the Kemsing Players.

Kevin has left a legacy, mainly of instructions as to how to do things, but so much of it has been verbal to me and others – a fount of knowledge which we can only hope to emulate in the years to come. We will miss his stories at the coffee breaks at set building sessions as he was a wonderful raconteur of things that have happened in his days at LEB and latterly SEEBOARD.

Some of his stories were almost unbelievable, always amusing and we must not finally forget that that little notice you see on every electricity pole that says “Danger of Death” – this was Kevin‘s idea and I have even seen it in France as “Danger de Mort” so his fame has spread way beyond these shores.

What a wonderful guy and always a pleasure to work with, and I, along with everybody else, will miss him terribly.

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