Very soon after John’s death, his friend Donald Howarth, playwright, director and dramaturg, set out to establish the Trust in his memory. He remained its President and its inspiration until his death on 24 March 2020 at the age of 89. Donald began his theatre career in Bradford alongside Bill Gaskill, in a youth theatre founded by the teenage Tony Richardson. After training as an actor with Esmé Church, Howarth turned to writing and emerged as part of the ‘angry young man’ generation of playwrights. In the mid-1970s he served as Literary Manager at the Royal Court Theatre. His plays include A Lily in Little India, which gave Ian McKellen an early leading role, and Three Months Gone which starred Diana Dors and transferred from the Court to the West End.
The Trust was formed to respond to those aspects of theatre and performance which most engaged John. He had himself published a number of books – including, with Ernest Richards, Improvisation (published by Methuen and Co Ltd in 1966), Living Expression, also with Richards, (Ginn and Co Ltd, 1968), Uses of Drama (Methuen and Co Ltd, 1977) and Mastering Movement: The Life and Work of Rudolf Laban (Routledge 2001). He was researching a biography of Alan Ayckbourn when he died. But his legacy rests squarely – and for many triumphantly – on the work he did as a teacher and mentor to light a creative fire in so many hearts and minds.
In addition to the John Hodgson Theatre Research Trust, a registered charity, John’s legacy includes a John Hodgson Theatre Research Fellowship at Mansfield College and the John Hodgson Archive at the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. The latter comprises John’s own papers, as well as a collection of Alan Ayckbourn’s scripts and correspondence and manuscripts relating to Rudolf Laban, whose work John studied for over 25 years.