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Jack Moore

Theatre director, film maker and impresario

Theatre director, film maker and impresario

Born: June 19, 1940; Died: April 2, 2014

Jack Henry Moore, who has died aged 73, was an important and highly controversial figure in the early days of Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre in the 1960s.

A colourful American expatriate, with long hair and a full beard, he turned up unannounced one day on the doorstep of the theatre's founder Jim Haynes, another American expat, told him he had read about the Traverse and that he wanted a job.

Moore effectively became Haynes's assistant at the theatre, which was originally based in a former brothel in the Lawnmarket. It was set up as a club to bypass censorship laws and aimed to promote new plays by new playwrights and older plays with a new spin. There was a version of Macbeth with nude witches, for example, and Moore championed the work of CP Taylor, a working-class Jew from Glasgow, who went on to become one of the theatre's regular writers and one of Scotland's foremost playwrights.

Moore also directed several productions, including acclaimed versions of Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales (1964-65) and the American musical The Fantasticks (1966).

But Moore was an abrasive and divisive figure from the outset and a clash over his status led to the departure of both Moore and Haynes. Opinions differ over the exact detail. The board wanted Haynes's position formalised as artistic director, but would not approve Moore's position as deputy.

However, Haynes made it clear in his online autobiography that there was more to it. "1966… My situation in Edinburgh is in difficulty largely due to a growing dislike of Jack Henry Moore and his open homosexuality," he wrote. "If one were a homosexual in those days, it was required to stay in the closet. One certainly didn't flaunt it."

After their departure from Edinburgh, Moore and Haynes ran a version of the Traverse in London and hosted Yoko Ono's first "happening". They helped set up the International Times, an underground newspaper which continues today as a web journal. Moore was editor for a while. And they opened the UFO club, where Pink Floyd were effectively the house band.

Moore also became increasingly interested in the new medium of videotape, the use of which he pioneered after being bought his equipment by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. His archive contained tens of thousands of hours of sound and video recordings, including recordings of Lennon and Ono, the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd.

Born in the little town of Sulphur, Oklahoma, in 1940, Moore began an engineering degree at Oklahoma State University, but switched to the performing arts - theatre, opera and ballet - while at the same time maintaining the interest in technology that would in due course lead him to record many of the arts projects and bands with which he was involved.

He worked as a stage manager and theatre director in New York and Dublin and reputedly supplemented his earnings in Dublin by working as a private detective. He arrived on Jim Haynes's doorstep and began a friendship and working relationship that would last almost 40 years, although, as with so many of Moore's relationships, it was to end with a falling out.

In London they launched various initiatives, including the Traverse offshoot and the Arts Laboratory in Drury Lane, which had video and theatre spaces, both designed by Moore.

Moore produced or helped produce several major one-off events, including The Alchemical Wedding, (1968) at the Albert Hall. Lennon and Ono appeared in a bag (promoting their philosophy of "bagism") and dancers appeared in the nude. It was intended to make the audience think.

He set up an arts group called The Human Family and spent much of his time driving round Europe with various people in a bus. But there was resentment at the Arts Lab that scarce resources were being used to finance what looked to the unenlightened like an extended holiday.

He eventually settled in Amsterdam and founded the Melkweg (Milky Way), which remains an important cultural centre. Latterly he spent more and more time making videos and helping others to do so.

He established the video collective The Videoheads. There are several dozen Videoheads projects on youtube, including one of Salvador Dali and a naked woman and another featuring bondage and full-frontal male nudity.He also worked with Sony and UNESCO as a consultant and helped set up video projects in Asia and South America.

At the beginning of the 1990s he made a documentary about Marlene Dietrich called The Dietrich Songs. It almost got shown at the Cannes Film Festival, but there were problems over rights and it remains little seen.

True to the spirit of the 1960s, he was not a great believer in profit or making money. He owed thousands of euros in back rent for his flat in Paris and it was only when his plight attracted international attention that his eviction was averted a few years ago.

He announced his imminent death with the statement: "Penniless artist dies alone in Paris. This is hardly news." But of course the fact that he put out a statement might suggest he rather hoped it would be.

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