Bill Kenwright was born on 4th September 1945, the son of bricklayer Albert and his wife Hope (née Jones) who lived at 35 Botanic Road L7. His father became a very successful building contractor and by the early 1950’s the family could move to a comfortable detached house in Allerton at 106 Mather Avenue L18. A friend of mine lived nearby in the 1950’s and recalls that Bill’s mother used to host charity garden parties at the house. He attended the nearby Booker Avenue Primary School and then the Liverpool Institute, a contemporary of Paul McCartney and George Harrison and the journalist Peter Sissons, though a few years younger than them.
Whilst still at school he performed with the Liverpool Playhouse and took lesson at Shelagh Elliott-Clarke drama school in Bold Street. He also formed a band called the Chevrolets, of which he was lead singer. A later venture at pop stardom would come with Bill Kenwright and the Runaways.
In his appearance on BBC radio’s Desert Island Discs [June1998] Kenwright recounted how in 1964 he set off for Manchester University and having an hour to spare wandered down to Granada TV studios where hew saw a sign advertising that day’s casting. Bluffing his way past the commissionaire he presented himself at the casting office, was given a script and a few weeks later was being paid 65 guineas to appear in an episode of The Villains. In 1968 he was cast as Gordon Clegg in Coronation Street, staying in the soap for twelve months. Other roles would include an appearance in the 1972 film Carry On Matron as a newspaper reporter. A turning point in his career came when a production of Billy Liar at Oldham Rep was cancelled. Determined to play the role he produced the play himself at Buxton Playhouse, financially backed by a number of ‘Corrie’ stars.
Kenwright went on to become one of the UK’s most successful theatre producers, his list of hits too numerous to mention. He also directed a number of productions and produced over a dozen films. He was awarded the CBE for services to theatre and films in the 2001 New Year honours list.
A life-long Evertonian, he joined the board of directors in 1989 and after his consortium acquired a majority shareholding in 1999 he became chairman, a post he held until his death. For most of his tenure he was held in some respect and affection by most Evertonians. However, as the club’s fortunes failed he was increasingly seen as a factor in the decline and faced many calls to resign.
Bill Kenwright was married to actress Anouska Hempel from 1978 to 1980 and has a daughter and two grandchildren from his relationship with the actress Virginia Stride. From the 1990’s until his death his partner was the actress Jenny Seagrove.
He died on 23rd October 2023 aged 78.
Kenwright's early home in the late 1940's.
The home the Kenwright family moved to in the early 1950's.
© Liverpool Footprints