Gavin Henderson stands down at Central School

Professor Gavin Henderson, principal of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama since 2007, is to leave at the end of the academic year.

“It was always my intention to step down, having delivered the new building and opened it” Henderson who is 71, told AItoday. “Higher education is moving into new realms now, a completely new landscape is emerging and it seems an appropriate time to hand it on.”

The new £16.7m North Block building opened at the school’s Swiss Cottage site in January, providing a new sound stage for film and media, five new rehearsal studios, as well as dressing rooms, teaching rooms, offices and communal break-out spaces.

“By next summer, Gavin Henderson will have given 13 years to Central and under his leadership it has evolved from one of the great British drama schools into a world-beating Royal Conservatoire offering a unique training in the dramatic arts” said the school’s president, the director Michael Grandage.“It is a far-reaching legacy that has already produced many leading practitioners in creative disciplines that would have been unthinkable before his arrival over a decade ago.

“He has helped transform the landscape for arts training and arts research and thanks to his considerable fundraising skills, he has also provided Royal Central with the infrastructure to support its ambitions.” 

Last year he was attacked for the school’s record in recruiting BAME students and he resignation was called for, but an inquiry showed that Central had a good diversity record. “The review declared we were in good shape, but also made recommendations for things we could take forward which we are doing. In terms of attracting and retaining BAME students we're in very good shape” he said.

Henderson, who received a CBE in 2004, has had a long and distinguished career in the arts, having first studied sculpture at The Slade and been a professional trumpet player. For 26 years he was artistic director of Dartington Summer School, and after becoming principal of Trinity College of Music in 1994 successfully moved it from Marylebone to Greenwich where he merged it with the Laban Centre for Dance.

He was also director of the Brighton Festival for ten years in his home town, and is standing down to devote more time to campaigns including saving the 1901 Hippodrome theatre with its Frank Matcham interior, developing the Secret Garden in Brighton as a sculpture garden, and planning on a new arts summer school.

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