An open letter to Prof. Gavin Henderson CBE

I wrote this a few weeks ago. As I didn't receive a direct reply, I thought I may as well share it here...


Dear Mr Henderson,

I graduated in December and attended the ceremony at the Southbank. It was a good event, until the end, where a particular part of your speech (or lack of it) both amazed and offended me.

You spoke at length to give your thanks to the various institutions which help RCSSD by their continued and increasing financial support and contributions. You also made a point of thanking the assembled audience (who had payed through the nose to attend the event) for their support. Why then I wonder, where one may have saved the most important thanks for last, you chose to simply ignore the several hundred students sat in front of you? Have their financial contributions in fees not registered as noteworthy enough to feature in your speech? Has their commitment to being attached to what (for the majority) is likely a lifetime of debt not a big enough sacrifice to give thanks for?

Your contemporary from the University of London talked passionately for the need for us, we academics and artists, to be a "counter-culture" to the world's problems. I wonder if either he or yourself understand the irony of championing a counter culture to the ignorance in the world today, an ignorance expedited primarily by rich men over poor, disillusioned, debt-ridden people, when you yourself stand there and seemingly refuse to acknowledge the financial hardships endured by the students of RCSSD to fund, in part, your own six-figure salary?

From talk by guest speakers of working class people "bettering" themselves through academia, to the hypocrisy of other speeches as highlighted above, I am saddened to not be able to take pride in graduating from the institution, so much as relieved I have survived it.

I hope in the future you may more actively consider and acknowledge the financial burdens which students take on in support of their studies. Without doing so, and without seemingly recognising your own financial privilege, I fear your desire to spearhead a counter-culture will be short lived.  

Yours Sincerely,
Daniel Gott
MFA Voice Studies