John Willis Appointed Chairman of The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama is pleased to announce the appointment of John Willis as the incoming Chairman of its Board of Governors.  Mr Willis will assume the duties of Chairman in July when the School's current Chairman, Paul Taiano, steps down.

John Willis is one of the best known figures in the television industry.  He held the position as Chairman of BAFTA between 2012 – 2014 and then as its Deputy Chairman until 2016.   He was appointed Chair of the One World Media in September 2014 and has served in a long list of high profile roles including Director of Programmes at Channel 4, Managing Director of LWT and United Productions, Vice President of National Programmes at WGBH and BBC’s Director of Factual and Learning. He is currently Chairman of Mentorn and Group Creative Director of Tinopolis.

The new Chairman Elect, John Willis, said:

“I am honoured to be chosen as Chair of Governors of what is acknowledged as a world-leading institution in its field. I take up the post at a time when Central is in rude health thanks to the efforts of my predecessor and everyone involved with Central. I look forward to playing my part in helping continue its trajectory upwards.”

Current Chairman Paul Taiano has served on Central’s Board of Governors since 1997.  Having been made Deputy Chairman in 2004, he assumed the Chairmanship in 2005. 

Paul Taiano has worked at Nyman Libson Paul chartered accountants and business experts since he joined as a trainee in 1978. He has been a partner since 1986 with an expertise in the entertainment industry, in particular film and theatre, and the charity sector.  Paul also holds the voluntary position of non-executive Chairman of Huntingdon National Hunt Racecourse which is part of the Jockey Club group of racecourses.

Of the appointment, Central’s Current Chairman Paul Taiano said:

“I have immensely enjoyed serving on the Board of Governors for The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama for the past twenty years and, in particular, the twelve years that I have spent as its Chairman.  We have accomplished a great many things during this time, including the acquisition of our degree awarding powers, affiliation with the University of London, the successful completion of a number of our building development projects and the award of a Royal Title to name just a few.  I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the School as it continues to go from strength to strength, and I wish my successor John Willis all the best as he prepares to assume the position of Chairman.”

The new Chairman joins Central at an exciting time.  Building works are presently underway on its new, £16.7m North Block Development which is due to open in 2018, and the School has also recently acquired new studio and rehearsal spaces – Central Bankside Studios – on London’s vibrant Bankside. These developments follow the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) announcement in May that Central would be awarded the maximum allocation permitted in institution-specific funding for the 2016/17 academic year as a part of its review into institution-specific targeted allocations (RISTA) and in recognition of its independently adjudged world leading teaching and graduate impact.  This significant increase in Central’s specialist, discretional funding was one of the highest in the sector.  It is on these successes that the School continues to grow and flourish.

Central’s Principal, Professor Gavin Henderson CBE, said of the announcement:

“Finding a successor to Paul Taiano as Chairman of Royal Central has been no easy task.  On the one hand we had a great many people keen to be considered, but few had the skills, experience and commitment we seek.  In John Willis we have found someone who has a formidable track record as Chairman of BAFTA, who can bring a new dimension of expertise in Film and Broadcasting, to enrich the Central programme.  We very much look forward to working with John at a crucial time in the School’s development.  HEFCE’s recent Review of Specialist Arts Colleges established Central as truly ‘World Leading’, as is our Research.  We will embark on a major new building programme, and a vigorous expansion of our international partnerships.”

I am honoured to be chosen as Chair of Governors of what is acknowledged as a world-leading institution in its field. I take up the post at a time when Central is in rude health thanks to the efforts of my predecessor and everyone involved with Central. I look forward to playing my part in helping continue its trajectory upwards.

Chairman-elect John Willis