Woking Borough Council bestowed Honorary Freedom of the Borough upon three long serving members of the community at a Special Meeting of Council held on Thursday 13 June 2019.
The Freedom of the Borough recognises exceptional contributions, or distinctive service to the Borough by an individual or group of individuals.
During the Special Meeting, Mayor of Woking, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, presented the Freeman’s Badge, ceremonial velum scroll and certificate marking the occasion to Mr Michael Bullen, Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire DBE. Their names will be inscribed on the Roll of Freemen of the Borough, which hangs in the Council Chamber.
Cllr Beryl Hunwicks said: “Freedom of the Borough is an ancient tradition and the highest honour that any Council can bestow and this evening represents an historic moment for the Council. The Honour of Freedom of the Borough is not lightly awarded and signifies the distinguished service these members of our community have given to this Borough.
“Recognising someone like Mick, who has given so much of their professional and personal life to helping people in their time of need, is a great honour for me.
“And when considering the amount joy that Sir Howard and Dame Rosemary have brought to members of our community and beyond through their many productions at the New Victoria Theatre, it gives me so much pleasure that we can recognise them in this way.”
Mr Michael N. Bullen
Educated at Goldsworth School, Mick left aged 15 to join the railway in Woking. However, his boyhood dream was to join the Fire Brigade and in 1961 he achieved this when he got his first job as a fireman at Woking. During his career he enjoyed two spells at different fire stations and the training school at Reigate as an instructor, yet spend most of his career at Woking Fire Station until he was medically discharged in 1989.
Mick began volunteering for the Red Cross in 1965 driving ambulances and by 2016 had risen to County Vice President, achieving over 50 years voluntary service with the Red Cross.
In 1998, Mick became an Eminent Citizen awarded by the Mayor of Woking for his services to charity. In 2007, after six years hard work he was recognised for almost single-handedly raising an incredible £56,000 to pay for a new state-of-the-art ambulance for the Woking branch of the Red Cross. In 2008, he met HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at Buckingham Palace in recognition of his fundraising efforts.
Mick lives with his wife Teresa. They have two grown up children and two grandchildren. Speaking about the honour, Mick said: “To be recognised by members of my own community is a real honour and came completely out of the blue. When I first volunteered for the Red Cross all those years ago, who’d have thought I’d be still going over 50 years later. It is moments like this that make you proud to be part of this community.”
Sir Howard Panter
Sir Howard Panter is a prominent theatre owner, producer and one of the key figures in the arts and entertainment industry with over 40 years’ experience.
Howard’s latest venture with his wife Dame Rosemary Squire, is Trafalgar Entertainment, a live entertainment business and home to Trafalgar Releasing (formerly Picturehouse Entertainment), Stagecoach Performing Arts, Trafalgar Studios and Trafalgar Theatre Productions.
Trafalgar Entertainment opened new headquarters in Woking in May, a homecoming for the pair who spent more than two decades running their former global business, Ambassador Theatre Group, from the town.
Prior to Trafalgar Entertainment, Howard was co-founder, Joint CEO and Creative Director for the Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd (ATG), the world’s number one live-theatre company with almost 50 venues in Britain, the US and Europe. Under his leadership, ATG became from scratch one of the most prolific, broad-based theatre producers in the world with productions in the West End and on Broadway including touring productions in the UK, North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Between 2010 and 2016, Sir Howard and Dame Rosemary topped The Stage 100 most influential people in UK theatre, making them the most successful entrants ever. In 2013, the pair were placed first in the Evening Standard ‘Power 1,000’ Theatre section, the same year Sir Howard received a Knighthood in The Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to theatre.
Sir Howard lives in West Byfleet with his wife, Dame Rosemary, and their daughter. He also has two grown up step-children. Sir Howard Panter said: “Thank you to Woking Borough Council and the Woking community for this wonderful recognition, the Honorary Freedom of the Borough. Rosemary and I live in Surrey and have based our work here for over two decades. When we founded Ambassador Theatre Group, the New Victoria Theatre and Ambassadors Cinemas at the Peacocks Centre became our very first venues outside London. Woking remains a brilliant platform for our future growth and we looking forward to continue working alongside this vibrant community.”
Dame Rosemary Squire DBE
Rosemary Squire OBE is the most prominent woman in British theatre of the modern era. Under her leadership, Ambassador Theatre Group became the world’s largest live-theatre company with 46 venues in Britain, the US and Australia and one of the world’s most prolific theatre producers. Now, she has moved into a new creative phase as Joint CEO and Executive Chair of Trafalgar Entertainment.
Dame Rosemary co-founded Ambassadors Theatre Group in 1992 with her husband, Sir Howard, and three years later, as their success grew, they acquired Woking’s theatre and cinema complex. The pair returned to Woking in May, opening new headquarters for Trafalgar Entertainment at Export House.
In 2005, Dame Rosemary became only the second female president of the Society of London Theatre in its 100 year history, campaigning to improve the West End theatre-going environment and securing vital funding to improve London’s historic theatres. Dame Rosemary was named the 16th most powerful woman in the UK by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in 2013, and a year later, was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year, becoming the first woman to win the award.
As Chair of Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Theatre for Theatre appeal, Dame Rosemary helped raise over £5 million and continues to support major fundraising appeals for the hospital. In the 2018 New Year Honours she was name Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to theatre and philanthropy.
Dame Rosemary lives in West Byfleet with her husband, Sir Howard, and their daughter. She has two grow-up children from a previous marriage. Rosemary Squire DBE said: “To be bestowed the Honorary Freedom of the Borough by Woking Borough Council is a true honour. Woking Borough is not only our home but also the home to our businesses having spent more than two decades running Ambassador Theatre Group here. We are delighted to be back in Woking with our new venture Trafalgar Entertainment. Thank you to the community who continue to nourish and support us as we continue creating theatrical content for all to enjoy.”