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London weekly’s former theatre critic dies aged 85

A former London arts journalist has lost his year-long battle with cancer at the age of 85.

William John Thaxter, known as John,  a former theatre critic for the Richmond and Twickenham Times, died on 30 January.

He left school when he was 14 and became self-educated after he lost a grammar school scholarship because his mother could not afford the annual £24 cost of books and uniform.

In the 1940s John had himself appeared in a West End production, he went on to become a pioneering computer systems designer in the 60s, which included spearheading BT’s entry into large-scale, commercial online computer systems.

His final project was the Directory Assistance System in 1986, a database design used globally.

He took early retirement from this role to become a full-time theatre critic, having already been ‘moonlighting’ as a freelance since the 1950s.

He went from writing a weekly photographic column to paid theatre reviews for the Boreham Wood and Elstree Post and the Herts Advertiser.

He also freelanced for photographic and gardening magazine, and went on to become the chief theatre critic for the Richmond and Twickenham Times, before joining the team at The Stage.

John, who was married three times, leaves behind a son and a daughter. His second wife, who he married in 1961, was a journalist with McLaren’s and later Dimbleby Newspaper Group.

His funeral will take place on Friday 10 February, at 11.20am at Mortlake Crematorium, Kew Meadow Path in Townmead Road in Richmond.




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  • February 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Young ‘meeja wannabes’ should read this obit. Left school at 14, no degrees — but he came out of it well. Travel well, John

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