“Waterside Theatre is John Cartwright’s lasting monument”

John Cartwright pictured handing over the keys to the Waterside Theatre to its then-boss Elizabeth Adlington
John Cartwright pictured handing over the keys to the Waterside Theatre to its then-boss Elizabeth Adlington

It was with great sadness that I learnt of former district council leader John Cartwright’s death this week.

He certainly leaves a legacy.

Walk around town and you can’t miss his mark on Aylesbury, from the Waterside Theatre and Waitrose, to the AVDC offices in Gatehouse Road, all of which he oversaw the building of.

I always found Mr Cartwright to be particularly open and honest when I interviewed him, never one to shy away from answering tricky questions.

His enthusiasm for the Waterside scheme in particular, which is regenerating that part of Aylesbury, shone through whenever we spoke.

That’s not to say the newspaper’s relationship with his administration was always smooth – the Bucks Herald was once ‘banned’ from talking to council leaders because they didn’t like the ‘negative’ stories we were running on them.

Mr Cartwright inherited a large amount of money from the sell-off of council houses.

Politically this was always going to be a double-edged sword – he was fortunate to have millions to invest, but his decisions about what to spend it on were always bound to be contentious.

It’s easy to forget now how controversial knocking down the Civic Centre was, or spending millions on the Gateway council offices, or the flak he got for the theatre going significantly over-budget.

But through it all he remained steadfast in his belief that Aylesbury deserved significant investment in its facilities.

It is particularly poignant that his death came the same week as his beloved Waterside Theatre was celebrating its fifth birthday.

It was a brave decision to build the theatre, particularly with such a bold design. But it has paid off.

The Waterside stands out from the crowd.

It is a beautiful landmark, particularly in the evenings when its hundreds of lights shine from within. And of course, it offers first-class entertainment on our doorsteps.

It has transformed Aylesbury, paving the way for future development and investment in the town, including the new restaurant quarter which will form the other part of the Waterside scheme.

It will live on as a monument to Mr Cartwright’s vision for Aylesbury.