Professor Gavin Henderson CBE, was Principal of The Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London and Artistic Director of the Dartington International Summer School. He was born in Brighton, and has lived there ever since. He was Artistic Director of Brighton Festival 1984–94. He is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Brighton.

Grainy black and white image of Gavin Henderson as a young man with paint brushes outdoors at an easel.

Gavin Henderson painting

In 2009, on the occasion of the Brighton College of Art’s 150 anniversary, he wrote:

“The first naked woman I ever saw was at Brighton Art College. Having just been expelled from Brighton College as a conscientious objector, I set about arranging my own post ‘O level’ education. Evening life drawing classes at the Art College were high in the mix, taken by the gruff, but ultimately amiable, Patrick Burke.

“First day at art school. Twenty of us sat uneasily, eyeing each other up, around an old school room in the St Johns Annexe on Carlton Hill.  In stepped the then suave Peter Hawes in white shoes. ‘Grab paper, grab charcoal – quick’ he barked, ‘right then …. two old ladies caught in a telephone box …. two minutes …. starting NOW …. weekend on the allotment, five minutes starting NOW …. four men pissed on the pier … ten minutes … start NOW’ and so it went on all morning. Our poesy pretentions crumbled in a frenzy of cries, panic and hilarity; hundreds of hasty drawings flew in all directions, and a few got pinned up on the walls. It was a masterful means of bonding the class.

“The most powerful influence for me, that year, was Peter Cresswell, in something called basic construction (ie sculpture). As a foundation year, led by the brothers Bevil and Luther Roberts, it was indeed a foundation that still feels firm – enabling me to fire off in many different directions in the forty years that have followed.

“What followed has included various involvements with Grand Parade. As a Postgraduate student of sculpture, at the Slade, I came back to Brighton as an occasional tutor for the complementary studies programme. I also curated a series of concerts in the newly built Sallis Benney theatre. As Artistic Director of the Brighton Festival, developments included significant exhibitions in the Grand Parade Gallery and the use of the Sallis Benney as a prime festival venue. It was a heady time for Brighton artists: the festival also grew as an international event and the Faculty of Arts was a crucial partner in this process.”

Gavin Henderson, 2009