TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular member of the Weymouth theatre community.

Dennis Dunford, a director of Weymouth Drama Club productions, has died at home in Weymouth aged 85.

The much-missed husband to Cathrin, father to Christopher and Nicola, brother to Doris and grandfather to Sky was admired for his instinctive talent as a director. Dennis's services to drama were acknowledged by the Queen, who invited him to a Buckingham Palace garden party.

Born in Stinsford, near Dorchester, in 1934, Dennis took up a job in Poundbury as a dairyman. His love of drama developed while he was in the RAF.

Dennis went on to work at County Hall in Dorchester and then Weymouth and Portland Borough Council as a legal executive.

Outside of work Dennis was a member of the Dorchester Community Players and then joined Weymouth Drama Club in 1957.

Over the years Dennis held every committee post at Weymouth Drama Club except treasurer. As an actor he played many parts from Shakespeare, the classics, from murderers to the murdered, light comedies and farce, straight plays to pantomime – he was a dab hand with the sewing machine making dame’s costumes. The plays he directed were staged at Weymouth Pavilion, outside venues and some at the drama club’s Warehouse Theatre.

In 1962 he started directing plays at the All England Theatre Festival and reached the final three times. He went on to join the committee of the Dorset Drama League and the committee of the Southern Division, for which he was also secretary. He joined the committee of the Western Area and became chairman in 2012.

Also a keen flower arranger, Dennis even won a medal at Chelsea Flower Show.

Weymouth Theatre Club member Chris Walker said Dennis will be 'sorely missed'. He added: "Dennis was perceptive and sensitive in his direction. He always had a vision of how a production should look and sound and trusted you to develop your character in your own way."

Dennis became a respected mentor for many budding young directors.

Jacqui Trent, of the club's youth theatre group Curtain Raisers, remembers: "He was my mentor when I first started directing with the drama club, and has kept me under his wing ever since. Dennis was very supportive of my work with our young people, the Curtain Raisers. He even directed a couple of plays with them and got excellent results."

Richard Grafton of the club said Dennis had 'an eye' for getting the stage to look at its best and was always the 'best dressed' pantomime dame.

Club member Anne White always appreciated Dennis's words of encouragement and said he will be remembered with 'joy, laughter and love'.

A private family funeral has been held but a celebration of Dennis's life is planned. Donations can be made to Dorset County Hospital and Action on Hearing Loss in his memory at