A Tribute to Jeanette Parkes

We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend Jeanette Parkes, who was Costume Assistant / Costume Supervisor at the Lyric from 1986 – 2003.

Jeanette Parkes was working for Paul Costelloe when, in 1986, she answered an ad in the Belfast Telegraph and became Costume Assistant at the Lyric Theatre under Costume Supervisor Anne Whittaker. 

In her first ten years at the Lyric, Jeanette worked on many of the theatre’s major productions, including Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, and the summer musicals Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Annie, and The Sound of Music all of which starred many young performers who have since become well-known, professional actors.

In 1996, the Lyric costume department moved into a neighbouring building where Jeannette and Anne finally had natural light to work by, and when Anne retired in 1998 Jeanette assumed the role of Costume Supervisor.

Jeanette designed costumes for the Lyric Theatre’s productions of Stags and Hens, As the Beast Sleeps, Alice The Musical, Hansel & Grettel, and Stones In His Pockets starring Conleth Hill and Sean Campion which transferred to the West End and then Broadway.  A highlight of her career, Jeanette travelled to New York to see Stones In His Pockets open, just days after her fortieth birthday.

After a break and a battle with breast cancer, Jeanette returned to the Lyric where she continued to design and make costumes until 2003.  Her final production for the theatre was was Frank McGuinness’ Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching toward the Somme. 

Jeanette loved her time at the Lyric where she made life-long friends, and she enjoyed working with the many cast members, both local and international, whom she dressed over the years. She is remembered for approaching every production with enthusiasm and a practical eye, creating visualthat immersed the audience in the world of the production. 

Director and composer, Paul Boyd, remembers Jeanette from his days at the Lyric Theatre:

”Jeanette was the Lyric Theatre’s Costume Assistant when I first came to work there in 1998, and over the next few years she created costumes for my musicals of “Alice” and “Hansel & Grettel”.  She herself was always immaculately dressed – a glamorous lady, with a calm, reassuring level-headedness which was so often appreciated in the chaos of production at the old Lyric Theatre building. 

Alongside Anne Whittaker, she worked in a small, triangular-shaped room with no window for many years, and I remember the excitement when the wardrobe department finally moved to another building on Ridgeway Street which had natural daylight. 

I only ever saw Jeanette’s calm demeanour ruffled on one production; “Hansel & Grettel” is a show that features a lot of bird costumes, as well as a series of magic feathers.  Jeanette was pteronophobic – she had a fear of feathers – which made for much hilarity when she played Russian roulette opening the deliveries of costume materials that arrived at the theatre marked for her attention.

Jeanette was part of the fabric of the Lyric for so many years, and her design flair and work ethic lives on in spirit in the theatre’s wardrobe department to this day.”

The Lyric was a part of Jeanette’s life for 17 years, and she continued to enjoy her association with the theatre throughout her life.  Having survived the earlier battle with breast cancer, Jeanette lost her fight with bile duct cancer last week on 1st August 2019.

From our Executive Producer Jimmy Fay, and all the Lyric staff and Board, we send our heartfelt condolences to Jeanette’s sister and extended family.