We were saddened to hear the news that Mike Southworth, who taught at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys for 50 years from 1966 – 2016 (although he continued to contribute to school life after this), died on 29th January 2020. Those who worked with him will tell you what a fantastic history teacher and colleague he was. Those who knew him personally will tell you what an amazing friend he was and those who were taught by him will have many, many more tales to tell because in addition to teaching history Mike also directed the drama at the school and produced an annual show which alternated between a musical and a play.
Mike was born in Southport and his affinity with Lancashire was demonstrated by his love for Preston North End FC and Lancashire CC. Mike began teaching at Camp Hill Boys in September 1966 having completed his PGCE at Exeter University. His degree in history was gained at Bristol. Very few people would have envisaged the impression that Mike would make on Camp Hill Boys. For decades he ran the senior cricket and hockey teams and would only ever take credit for driving the teams to their matches.
Mike will undoubtedly be remembered for his contribution to drama at the school. He put on over 50 productions, one of which (Oliver 1975) saw the now successful author Mark Billingham play the Artful Dodger. Mark Billingham paid tribute to Mike Southworth at the time of his retirement in 2016 when he said, “The shows were the highlight of my time at school. You don’t need me to tell you what a delightful man Mike is, or what an inspirational teacher, but I can tell you he was always hugely supportive of boys like me – those whose skill-sets might not always be…..conventional.”
Mike will be remembered for many things but the establishment of the annual Battlefields Trip (run since 1982) has remained one of the great school institutions. It is impossible to write down the impact Mike Southworth made on the school, whether it be history, drama, cricket, hockey or simply being there for colleagues in the staffroom. He taught across two generations in a period which saw tremendous change at the school and in the education system. Those who were fortunate enough to work with him, to know him outside school as a friend or to be taught by him know that they will not see his like again.
Martin Garrod the current Headteacher at Camp Hill Boys said “Mike was a truly remarkable colleague. He was kind to all staff, whether long-serving or new to the profession; after 50 years at the school he remained positive and enthusiastic, never showing cynicism, never saying, ‘I’ve seen it all before.’ He will be remembered for his sparkling wit, never better displayed than in his annual speech at the staff Christmas lunch. Mike enriched my life and the lives of all who worked with him.”
Finally, an ex-pupil paid tribute to his teacher in a blog in London’s Theatre-land in which said “we live in a time where the arts are consistently side-lined in education: so, here’s to the Mr
Southworths out there, still helping dreams come to life. That special kind of teacher who sows the seeds for a love of the arts that can keep growing throughout a lifetime.”
He is survived by his wife Carol, their children Rebecca, Emma, Lucy and William as well as their 6 grandchildren.