Bill Sheat, with love and thanks

With great sadness, the Board, artists and staff of the Royal New Zealand Ballet acknowledge the death of our former Chair (1975 – 90) and fierce friend of the RNZB and the arts community, Bill Sheat CNZM.

Bill made a profound contribution to the management and governance of the arts in New Zealand, and especially in Wellington, over more than five decades. In addition to his exceptional service to the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Bill’s foresight and tenacity was central to the preservation of two of Wellington’s great arts venues, the Embassy Theatre and the Opera House.

Royal New Zealand Ballet Chair Dame Kerry Prendergast says: ‘I’ve personally known Bill for thirty years associated with film, the Embassy Theatre and several arts organisations. He’s been a stalwart of Wellingtons arts and theatre scenes – a passionate Wellingtonian and generous benefactor.’

Bill’s association with the then New Zealand Ballet began as a young audience member, and then as a member of the Arts Council from 1967. Over more than two decades, Bill worked closely with the ballet company, through the Arts Council, as the Administrator for the ballet and then as a member of the Board and our longest-serving Chair.

His time with the company included the appointment of Philip Chatfield as Artistic Director, followed by Harry Haythorne, international touring in Australia, Europe and for the first time, China. He managed an at times challenging relationship with the Arts Council with nerves of steel and an unswerving belief in the importance of our national ballet and the value of the living arts. After stepping down from the RNZB Board in 1992, Bill continued as the company’s legal advisor and, as the Chair of the Ballet Foundation, played a part in the final negotiations for the lease of the company’s first permanent home at the St James Theatre. The RNZB’s board room at the St James is named in his honour.

Thanks to Bill’s vision and his indomitable spirit, Wellington’s dancers, actors, musicians and the film community, and the thousands of people who enjoy their work, have venues to be proud of in the heart of our city.

We remember Bill with deep gratitude and with affection, and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family.

We will be honoured to join with our colleagues in the arts community and from the many organisations that Bill served, guided and enlivened, at a celebration of his life. Bill’s funeral service will be held at the Embassy Theatre, Kent Terrace, Wellington, on Thursday, January 28th, 2021, at 1.30pm, followed by a private cremation.

At the request of the Sheat family, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Hutt Valley Heart Trust, PO Box 45127 Waterloo, Lower Hutt 5042.

Bill Sheat