The esteemed Director of Music at London's Southbank Centre, Gillian Moore MBE, received an Honorary Doctorate from the Department of Music at City’s latest graduation ceremony. Below is Gillian’s acceptance speech
Gillian Moore is Director of Music at Southbank Centre in London, where she oversees a large portfolio of classical, jazz, and contemporary music in what is one of the world’s largest cultural institutions.
At Southbank, she has worked to change the landscape for music, find new audiences, improve diversity and support new music. Gillian has worked to bring music and the arts to the widest possible community for over 35 years.
In 1983, she became the first Education Officer at a UK orchestra, taking the London Sinfonietta into schools and prisons before becoming Head of Education at Southbank.
Returning to the Sinfonietta as Artistic Director between 1998 and 2006, Gillian commissioned new works and her innovative approach helped connect new music to wider culture, including visual art, dance and electronica.
Gillian was awarded an MBE for services to British music in 1994. She also writes and broadcasts regularly about music, mainly on BBC Radio 3.
She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by City, University of London’s Department of Music at a graduation ceremony on Monday 17th January 2022, where she gave the following speech:
“President, Vice President, distinguished guests, graduands, families and friends. It’s a true honour to receive this recognition today, and from City University, whose graduates have made such a huge contribution to the arts, to journalism, to politics, to science and technology and to the law.
First of all, I want to say huge congratulations to all of today’s graduands. You have completed your studies under the toughest of circumstances.
When I graduated from university an astonishing four decades ago, I knew that I’d worked harder than I thought I was capable of, I knew that I pushed myself beyond what I thought I could do, I knew that I had, somehow, overcome all the self-doubt and fear which threatened to engulf me every day.
In all of this, I was supported by daily interaction with my teachers and fellow students and buoyed up by the many opportunities and the fun of student life.
The pandemic has meant that you have done a lot of this in isolation, often behind a computer screen, denied the collegiality, the chance encounters, the informal learning from each other, much of the social life that we expect from being a student.
But you have done it, and I reckon if you can do this, you can do anything. My admiration for you is enormous.
I feel especially pleased that it’s City, University of London which is conferring this honour today; pleased for two particular reasons.
I feel connected to its founding principles; the Northampton Institute, from which City grew in the 19th century was set up explicitly for the benefit of local people of Clerkenwell and Islington who would not have previously had access to education.
Secondly, I acknowledge that City today represents true international excellence, the thinking of new thoughts and new ideas which are making a difference in the world.
If an occasion like today offers the chance to take stock, then I’d notice that those same two ideas have also been at the heart of what has driven me in my working life.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with musicians and artists at the top of their game, who are constantly thinking new things, pushing the arts forward, taking big risks, helping us see the world differently.
But I’ve also given equal energy to the notion that all of this must be available to everybody: that includes taking steps to correct the mind-boggling historic gender imbalance in all genres of music, it includes striving for the voices of artists from the complete culture heritage that makes up London and the UK are heard; it includes trying to make sure that everyone feels at home in a concert hall or an art gallery, or that any young person is equipped to see that a career in the arts could be for them.
I’m amazed that I still come across people in my world who say that there is a contradiction between those two ideas – that the arts can’t be innovative and great and world-class at the same time as being inclusive and genuinely for everyone.
Needless to say, I passionately disagree. Any sphere of human endeavour is impoverished by excluding the riches of different life experiences, diversity of thought and ways of seeing the world.
Thank you for letting me share in your great day and for the honour you have bestowed on me. It means a lot, and I wish you all, and this great institution, the very best for the future.”
Gillian’s speech is published here with kind permission. Photograph: Esen Bozdagli.