Impresario Dan Crawford (pictured) - who transformed Islington’s King’s Head pub into one of London’s most successful fringe theatres, producing daring and artistic pieces and attracting a high calibre of performers - has died aged 62.

Crawford founded the King’s Head Theatre, a 115-seater situated in Islington’s historic 19th-century pub, in 1970 and was artistic director for 35 years. The venue has won numerous awards from Oliviers to the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award, as well as numerous newspaper awards.

Among the theatre’s acclaimed productions, more than 30 have transferred to the West End, six have transferred to Broadway and eight have toured nationally. Crawford, who lived above the pub, revived rarely-seen plays by the likes of Noel Coward and Tom Stoppard (who called the theatre “a pioneer of fringe theatre”), rediscovered old musicals and produced new plays and lively revue shows. The venue also provided pivotal career opportunities for leading lights in the West End, and boasts Antony Sher, Simon Russell Beale, Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh among its supporters.

As a producer, Crawford’s credits included Kennedy’s Children, Spokes Song, The Browning Version, Fearless Frank, Mr Cinders, Bitter Sweet, Noel and Gertie, Wonderful Town, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, September Tide and A Passionate Woman; and as a director, Cavalcade (which received a national tour in 1995), Love (toured in 1996), and The Famous Five (toured in 1997).

Crawford, who died yesterday (Wednesday 13 July 2005) after a long struggle against cancer, was described as a colourful, eccentric and energetic theatrical maverick. His colleague Kevin Durjun, who has been the theatre’s administrator for the past three years, told “He is so missed already. He absolutely loved theatre, even when he was so sick, his one big regret was that he wasn’t at his desk. He was a wonderful character, an eccentric and roguish raconteur who started all of this from nothing and built up a loyal following of staff and actors, who don’t perform at the King’s Head for the money, but because of his magnetism and the fact they love it.”

- by Caroline Ansdell