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‘Renewed spirit of creativity and excitement’ since City of Culture 2017 win

Meet Darren Henley. A Politics alumni of the university and Chief Executive of the Arts Council England. He discusses why culture and the arts are so important to him…

20th September 2016

It all started for Darren Henley OBE – chief executive of Arts Council England and former managing-director of Classic FM – with a bit of quick-thinking.

He was hoping to study politics at the University of Hull and found himself under the scrutiny of Professor Philip Norton, Britain’s greatest living expert on parliament, who asked him: "Why Hull?"

Though somewhat intimidated, Henley recognised the name from the spine of most of the text books he had read while studying politics at A level and had a ready reply.

“I said: “You wrote all the books sir,” and he leaned forward and said: “Well, Mr Henley, that is a very good answer, if I may say so,” and I got in,” he revealed.

Henley graduated with his politics degree in 1994 but has since followed a different route in his career focusing on his love of classical music and his belief in the power of culture to change people’s lives.

He has written or co-written more than 20 books about classical music and composers, including the best-selling Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Classical Music... But Were Too Afraid To Ask.

And he played a huge part in bringing classical music to a mainstream audience with his work at Classic FM where he started as a freelance contributor while still studying at Hull, eventually becoming managing-director in 2006.

He said: “At Classic FM, I was most proud that we took an art form, popularised it and made it relevant to millions of people who previously hadn’t connected with classical music."

Henley has brought the same principles to Arts Council England since being appointed chief executive in 2014.

"At the Arts Council, we are absolutely passionate about high-quality arts for everybody. The quality of the experience must be excellent wherever you are," he said.

"One of the first announcements I made as chief executive was changing the ratio of Lottery money spent inside and outside London so by 2018, it will be 75 per cent outside London."

And, as you would expect, he is a big supporter of Hull's big year as the UK City of Culture 2017.

"I’ve seen for myself that there is, without question, a renewed spirit of creativity, excitement and optimism in Hull," he said.
"But these good things don’t happen by accident. They happen because of leadership and partnership. People across Hull are seeing the transformational power that culture can have," he added.
 

"I’ve seen for myself that there is, without question, a renewed spirit of creativity, excitement and optimism in Hull"

"But these good things don’t happen by accident. They happen because of leadership and partnership. People across Hull are seeing the transformational power that culture can have"