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27th May, 2021

Lynne Williams to retire and step down as Principal of Guildhall School of Music & Drama

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After nearly five years in post, Lynne Williams today announces that she plans to retire and will step down as Principal of Guildhall School of Music & Drama at the end of August.

Lynne Williams commented, ‘It is with very mixed emotions that I announce my retirement. Although I have been planning this for some time, I have delayed announcing this news in order to provide stability in a period of extraordinary challenge for Guildhall School. Through the pandemic, Guildhall School staff and students have been endlessly resilient and imaginative in overcoming hurdles, and our community has emerged strong and focused on new beginnings for our arts training, for our public engagement and for our creative industries. Our strong senior leadership team has been an integral part of this, and is well equipped to meet our on-going challenges and opportunities, and steer the School through our post-pandemic recovery plan. I will miss this thriving institution greatly and although I’ll be moving back to Australia and on the other side of the world, I will follow the School’s future success with great interest and affection. It has been such an important part of my life and has given me so much pleasure and fulfilment.’

Lynne Williams joined Guildhall School as Principal in January 2017 and over her tenure has overseen a number of major developments and successes:

  • Developing a new strategic plan and business model for the institution, with a focus on the conservatoire in the 21st century and providing all students with a broad set of skills for a portfolio career
  • Broadening of the School’s mission to highlight community engagement, interdisciplinary practice and artistic citizenship
  • Guildhall School ranked as the top UK conservatoire in the 2021 Guardian music and drama league tables, and in the top 10 of all UK universities for student satisfaction in the 2020 National Student Survey
  • Achieving Gold Award in the 2018 Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF)
  • Implementation of an anti-racism action plan and a School-wide approach to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 
  • Championing the expansion of the School’s under 18s activity, including the establishment of the Guildhall Young Artists division and the launch of Music Education Islington, the music education hub for the London Borough of Islington
  • Key senior appointments including a new Vice Principal and Director of Drama and Vice Principal and Director of Production Arts
  • Deepening of the relationship with the Barbican in shared artistic and educational programming initiatives
  • As part of Universities UK and Conservatoires UK, extensive lobbying for positive Brexit outcomes and navigating the obstacles it has created for the specialist higher education sector
  • Navigating the challenges of the pandemic with a transition to delivering high quality online teaching and learning, including the development of groundbreaking low latency technology to enable this to happen
  • The launch of a new business unit, Guildhall Live Events, with highlights of their work to date including Beasts of London at the Museum of London
  • The development of a new Institute for Social Impact Research in the Performing Arts
  • Guildhall School’s participation as a founding partner in Culture Mile, a unique network of arts, cultural and educational organisations in the Square Mile

Vivienne Littlechild, Chair and Graham Packham, Deputy Chair of Guildhall School of Music & Drama commented, ‘We are enormously grateful to Lynne for her inspiring leadership of Guildhall School during her tenure as Principal. During that time, she has accomplished a huge amount, latterly in the most challenging of circumstances, and she is leaving the School as an energised and inspired institution, with a great leadership team in place and a robust plan for the post-pandemic world. On behalf of the Board, we thank her for everything she has done, and wish her all the very best for her retirement.’

In a career spanning over 45 years, Lynne Williams has developed a significant breadth of arts practice, pedagogy and cultural entrepreneurship across not-for profit, government, and commercial sectors. Before joining Guildhall School in 2017, Lynne was the Director/CEO of Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) where she led transformative change including a reinvigorated teaching and learning environment, the construction of the NIDA Graduate School, opened by the Australian Prime Minister, and the launch of a new suite of Master of Fine Arts courses.

Prior to NIDA, Lynne held many arts and cultural leadership positions in the UK. She led the development of the Culture, Ceremonies and Education Programme for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), following her contribution to London 2012’s successful Olympic Bid as a Cultural Advisor/Creative Producer. Lynne was also Artistic Director of Cardiff 2008, the company bidding for Cardiff to be 2008 European Capital of Culture.

Her experience in performing arts began in Australia where she studied and performed as a professional singer specialising in contemporary music and music theatre. On moving to the UK in 1985, she extended her arts experience through her work as Director of Performing Arts for the East of England and later, as Artistic Director/CEO of Eastern Touring Agency. She expanded her own arts practice by writing opera libretti with a number of British composers. Her work commissioned by English National Opera Studio enjoyed London performances and a national tour. She also wrote and presented music programmes for BBC Radio.

She has a deep commitment to arts education and increased public access and has developed and promoted work across the full spectrum of the arts. She served on the Arts Council England Touring Panel and advised on a number of national audience development initiatives. She was also an Arts Council England advisor for contemporary music, opera, theatre and dance. She has served as a chair, a board and committee member of a variety of arts companies in both the UK and Australia including Arts and Kids, National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), and Performing Lines (Australia).

Lynne has been honoured with a number of awards, including an honorary degree of Master of Letters by De Montfort University for her contributions to the arts and arts education, and elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2014, she was honoured with a Doctor of Letters from the University of Wollongong for her scholarship, her service to the Australian and international arts industries, and for her dedication to broadening access to contemporary arts. In 2019, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

Guildhall School’s Board of Governors will now consider its next steps in appointing the School’s next Principal.


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