Tributes have been paid to “no bigger Blue” Bill Kenwright at a memorial service for the former Everton chairman.
Kenwright died in October aged 78 just a couple of weeks after a major operation to remove a cancerous tumour from his liver and after his family held a small, private funeral, his friends and colleagues from the world of football and entertainment attended Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral to pay their respects.
Current Toffees manager Sean Dyche and his first-team squad – as well as the club’s youth teams – were present as well as former managers and ex-players.
Sir Kenny Dalglish headed a delegation of officials and former players from Everton’s near-neighbours Liverpool, boxer and I’m A Celebrity runner-up Tony Bellew and Coleen Rooney, the wife of former Everton forward Wayne, were also in attendance, while there were also stars of stage and screen.
Mayor of Manchester and Everton fan Andy Burnham said: “Nobody was a bigger Blue than Bill. Nobody had a bigger heart than Bill.
“The legacy of Bill Kenwright is countless acts of generosity which lifted thousands of lives.”
On the building of a new ground at Bramley-Moore Dock, which the club will move to for the start of the 2025-26 season, Burnham said Kenwright’s “mission has been accomplished”.
However, Burnham said his proudest moment came when Kenwright was asked to address the service for the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster held at Anfield.
“His finest hour came in front of the Kop in 2014: here was the chairman of my football club giving a speech which was so right and so full of emotion – and I couldn’t have been prouder of him that day,” he added.
Margaret Aspinall, the former chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group who lost her son James in the 1989 disaster which claimed 97 lives, built up a close relationship with the former Everton chairman after he offered his support in the wake of the tragedy.
“On behalf of our city we are all going to miss Bill tremendously. Bill Kenwright will never walk alone,” she said.
Kenwright’s long-term partner, the actress Jenny Seagrove, admitted: “He wasn’t my Bill, he was our Bill. He never forgot where he came from.”
Former Everton midfielder Peter Reid also spoke at the service, saying: “What a fitting tribute it would be if we could win a trophy for him. No pressure Dychey.”
Current captain Seamus Coleman said that on his arrival at the club from Sligo Rovers in 2009, Kenwright “helped me understand what Everton Football Club meant to people. Thank you Mr Chairman for making me an Evertonian”.
Away from football, Rufus Norris, artistic director of the National Theatre, described Kenwright as “legendary”.
"The Chairman was a remarkable man who touched so many lives, and I will miss him dearly. So will everyone at Everton Football Club."
– Seamus Coleman
— Everton (@Everton) December 18, 2023
“He was an absolute giant in the theatre world,” he said.
Everton in the Community’s Spirit choir sang Elton John’s ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues’, while there were also solo performances from Marti Pellow and former Spice Girl Mel C, who sang a song from Kenwright’s long-running West End musical Blood Brothers.
In keeping with his theatrical background there was a standing ovation from the congregation at the conclusion, which finished with a soundbite of Kenwright himself saying: “For one last time, good night and God bless.”