John Fox & Sue Gill

John Fox

John Fox was the Artistic Director of Welfare State International (WSI), which he founded with Sue Gill in 1968. The company, which was based in Ulverston, Cumbria, has received numerous awards and was described in the Guardian Guide (November 2001) as

"Britain's foremost alternative performance and installation collective."

In 1991 and 1998 John Fox was given prestigious Northern Electric Awards for his
"outstanding, vital and innovative contribution to the cultural identity of the North."

Resident in Barrow-in-Furness from 1983 to 1990, WSI inspired its ongoing strategy for the arts. From 1990 to 2006 it instigated the cultural regeneration of Ulverston through numerous festivals and rebuilding its headquarters, Lanternhouse, a 2.2 million international centre, which has received accolades from both the Civic Trust and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

WSI's work is documented in "Engineers of the Imagination" published by Methuen, which has been reprinted five times since 1983.

In 2002 John worte an autobiographical book for Methuen (July 2002). Called "Eyes on Stalks", a rollercoaster stomp through WSI's adventurous history.   It covers many of the prototypes - fire festivals, lantern parades, rites of passage, community carnivals and site-specific theatre, which have had a world-wide influence on the celebratory arts movement.

John Fox makes woodcuts, is a published poet and lectures regularly on themes of art and creativity at universities and conferences at home and abroad. For more information on John's ongoing work see


Sue Gill is co-founder of Welfare State International and has worked in celebratory theatre in diverse communities for almost fourty years.   Lecturer, author, broadcaster, performer, celebrant, singer, truck driver, cook and workshop leader. 

Sue has long experience in finding new ways of marking milestones in our lives with special events for weddings, namings, retirements, memorial gatherings and many other important occasions and transitions.  With her colleague Gilly Adams she creates and presents new ceremonies

From 1980 to 2006 she co-ordinated Welfare State International's education and training programme, leading summer schools' workshops in the UK, Denmark, Portugal, Australia, Canada and the USA.  

She frequently lectures within fields of arts and health, celebratory arts, and rites of passage and was the main celebrant for a Service of Remembrance at Great Ormond Street Hospital (in connection with reconciling the retained organs issue with bereaved families). Sue has been a speaker at the Green Party Conference on Dead Good Funerals and Green Burials.

Co-author with John Fox of The Dead Good Guides to Funerals and Namings and Baby Welcoming Ceremonies. These publications link with workshops for those who want to learn how to create significant ceremonies for themselves or for other people.

Sue is continues to work with John Fox as part of Dead Good Guides.