John passed away 9th June 2008 and is missed by all, but will never be forgotten

CAT Awards Gala Evening, February 2008

From the opening remarks by Dennis Martin, Chairman, CAT Awards Board

“Finally and most significantly it gives me enormous pleasure to honour tonight with a Lifetime Achievement Award a stalwart of the CAT Awards — no it’s not Coralie, who as you all know is long overdue for beatification. No, it is in fact her soul mate and Man Friday: that great quiet achiever JOHN THOMSON. While I outline his achievements I’d ask John to make his way to the stage and ask Coralie to join me to present to John this Lifetime Achievement Award — a CAT Awards first!”


Born in Melbourne, John moved with his family to Canberra at age three. He was educated at Ainslie Primary School, Canberra High School and at the Australian National University. John became a professional librarian working in the federal government sector, including the National Library of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia.

John developed a lifelong interest in, and commitment to, theatre. He has been involved in various aspects of theatre, as a participant and theatre-goer, for over 40 years.


A life’s work in the theatre


  • A stage hand at Covent Garden, London
  • Two years as Box Office Assistant at the Royal Court Theatre, London
  • Theatre Production and Management :

Stage Manager, scenic designer, performer, set constructor, painter, production manager, publicist, properties co-ordinator and program editor primarily with Canberra Philharmonic Society as well as  other Canberracompanies.

  • In 1994–95 John’s set for Canberra Philharmonic’s production of Les Miserables toured to the Gold Coast, Nambour, Townsville and Geelong. And in 1996 it won the Canberra Critics Circle Award.
  • President of Canberra Philharmonic Society and, variously, Artistic Director and long-standing member of the Executive Committee
  • Awarded Life Membership by CanberraPhilharmonic in 1984

A public life

  • The voice behind the golden microphone for the ABC (2CN), 1997-2002, speaking on popular music and theatre history
  • Founding member of the Performing Arts Special Interest Group(PASIG) of Museums Australia, dedicated to Australia’s performing arts heritage
  • Member of SIBMAS, an international organisation devoted to theatre archives and performing arts heritage, and participant in its international conferences

A librarian and preserver of performing arts history

  • Researching and documenting Australian musicals
  • Indexing performing arts events for the national online database, AusStage.
  • Volunteer at the National Library of Australia cataloguing a large collection of photographs of J.C. Williamson productions
  • Curated the archives of the Canberra Theatre Centre for its 40th birthday celebrations in 2004
  • ACT Heritage Library volunteer cataloguing ACT theatre heritage collections
  • Research Assistant on the Ballets Russes in Australasia project

A commitment to recognising talent and improving the performing arts

Founding member of the Judging Panel for the Canberra Area Theatre (CAT) Awards since 1995, founding member of the Steering Committee of the CAT awards and Founding Board Member of CAT Awards Limited.