Gavin Henderson CBE (Le. 1960-65), Principal of The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, grew up in Brighton - where his first work in the theatre comprised holiday jobs backstage at the 'weekly rep' on the Palace Pier, and in pantomime at Wimbledon.
Some years at Art School - first at Brighton, then Kingston and finally as a postgraduate at the Slade School/UCL - were followed by a Goldsmith's travelling scholarship to the USA - returning to the UK to work front of house, and as publicity officer, for the Victoria Theatre, Stoke on Trent. In 1972 he was appointed as Artistic Director of the York Triennial Festival and Mystery Plays, and in 1975 he became Chief Executive of the Philharmonia Orchestra.
- When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
I was born in Brighton College – February 1948, my father was Housemaster of Durnford ... then a boarding house further up the Eastern Road, by the Hospital. I followed through the Junior School, with the Senior School in 1960. I wanted to be a racing driver and artist.
- What are you now you've grown up?
Principal of The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, within the University of London.
- What is your best memory of school?
Studying with Gordon Taylor – the Director of Art, and with Jack Hindmann, Director of Music.
- What was the best piece of advice you were given?
My father said that the great art in Life is knowing when to stop .... and never go back!
- What do you do / did you do as a career?
I ran festivals in York, then the Philharmonia Orchestra, after which I ran South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell – where I built the Wilde Theatre, then became Director of Brighton Festival, and of the International Summer School at Dartington, following, and in tandem, being Principal of Trinity College of Music – which I merged with Laban Centre for Dance .... and moved to the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Now very happily at Royal Central.
- What does your job involve?
Setting policy, and full oversight for the management of this great School of Theatre. As with all my life – lots of fundraising, which I enjoy.
- What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Campaigning within Government for better recognition of the creative arts at all corners of education, but Higher Education in particular.
- What have you done that you are most proud of?
Setting up the charity Youth Music.
- What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
Being able to speak fluent Spanish and Italian – none of which were available to me when I was at school.
- What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
A pasta cooking bucket, my natural trumpet, pens and paper.
- How would you like to be remembered?
He spread a little happiness.
In 1979 he moved to Bracknell - establishing the Wilde Theatre and developing the South Hill Park Arts Centre, and then in 1984 he succeeded Sir Ian Hunter as Artistic Director of the Brighton Festival - doing much to expand the Festival's profile as a centre for international theatre and dance. In tandem he directed the Dartington International Summer School, where he succeeded Sir Peter Maxwell Davies as Artistic Director, from 1985 until 2010.
He was Principal of Trinity College of Music from 1994 to 2006 - moving the College to the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich, and forming the merger with Laban centre for dance. At Trinity he established the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts, incorporating the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection.
He has been President of the European Festivals Association, and Chairman of the British Arts Festivals Association. He was a founder Council member of Arts Council England, and the longest serving chair of its music panel. He served on Sir Richard Eyre's review of the Royal Opera House, and founded Youth Music (the National Foundation of Youth Music), the first and only delegate distributor of Lottery Funds, which he chaired for some eight years.
His many awards include Honorary Degrees and Fellowships from the University of Sussex, University of Brighton, Trinity Laban, Trinity College of Music, Royal College of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. He won the Making Music Sir Charles Groves Award in 2005, and the Gold Badge of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters in 2007. He was made a CBE in the Birthday Honours 2004.
Professor Henderson is also a trustee of The Antony Dale Trust (Charity No. 1124822), The Berners Trust (Charity No. 800585), Brighton Early Music Festival (Charity No. 1097288), Chetham Hospital School and Library (Charity No. 526702), Estorick Collection (Charity No. 1046374), ISM Members Fund (working name of the Benevolent Fund of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Charity No. 206801) and the National Piers Society (Charity No. 1111251).