Richard Stead

HE counted some of the biggest names in entertainment among his friends and was still cracking jokes at the end.

But Richard Stead, East Riding Council member for South East Holderness who died in hospital last week at the age of 67, will best be remembered in East Yorkshire for his efforts to put his home town of Withernsea on the map.

Two years ago, a survey by high street bank Halifax found that Withernsea was the most affordable seaside town in England and Wales, with an average house price of £91,360 that contrasted greatly with the most expensive, Sandbanks - the Dorset peninsula that is home to football manager Harry Redknapp - where the average house price was £544,951.

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But while many would cast a covetous eye at the sun-kissed properties on Sandbanks, it exercised no pull on Coun Stead.

“Withernsea is a lovely little town,” he told the Yorkshire Post. “It’s got all the facilities you need and a good school. Living at the coast has a lot going for it with the sea and the beach, and with modern communications and transport you are never far away from anywhere. I wouldn’t like to live anywhere else.”

Some years earlier he had enjoyed one of his proudest moments when welcoming Prince Charles to the resort, and making sure even the smallest detail was to the Prince’s liking.

Withernsea town councillor Terry Render, a lifelong friend of Coun Stead’s, said: “It was Richard who invited him and an equerry said ‘If you offer him a cup of tea he must have honey in it’, and that’s what Richard did.”

It was little surprise to those who grew up with Coun Stead that he would forge a career in the entertainment industry after he shone at amateur dramatics at school.

After leaving school he managed local bands and set up his own promotion company. One of his main achievements in this period included bringing The Beatles to Hull.

He went on to manage and then own Teddy’s, Withernsea’s best known nightspot, where the acts he put on included Alvin Stardust, Ked Dodd and Bernard Manning.

He added the Victoria Tavern and the Olympic Sports and Social Club to his portfolio after forming RS Leisure.

He provided opportunities for local musicians by hosting talent contests, many compered by his then partner Alistair Gray, a talented entertainer and brother of football manager Stuart.

Coun Stead was also raising thousands of pounds of charity, with beneficiaries including The Variety Club, Dove House Hospice and local schools and hospitals.

But he eventually felt he could do more for Withernsea by entering politics and was elected to East Riding Council as a Conservative in 2003.

But the doggedness that made him a formidable businessman and political operator also led him to avoid seeking medical help, despite knowing he was ill for some time.

Mr Gray, who was at his bedside when he died alongside Coun Stead’s former partner Carole, and their daughters Sophie, 21, and 19-year-old Lucy, said: “Richard was a stubborn bloke, he’d do it on his own and unfortunately time beat him in the end. It’s something we’ll never know, but if he’d gone to the doctors...”

He added: “I still can’t believe he’s not here really. There were things I wanted to say to him which I said, but whether he heard or not I don’t know.”

East Riding Council leader Stephen Parnaby and Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart were among those who paid tribute to Coun Stead.

Coun Parnaby said: “Richard was a highly effective ward councillor and had a wonderful manner to which people immediately warmed to. He was truly one of life’s characters, had a wonderful and wicked sense of humour, but had a heart of gold and would help anyone with his common sense approach.

“He was extremely well connected in the world of entertainment and counted Bruce Forsyth and Jimmy Tarbuck among his friends.”

Mr Stuart added: “Richard was warm, funny, effective, and knew how to get his point across. He was the ultimate community councillor, always taking up issues on behalf of people in Withernsea, the town he championed and loved. A politician and a performer he leaves a big hole in his community and the local party.”