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Students sat on the steps of the Royal Albert Hall, looking at the RCM's Blomfield Building with blue sky

Feature Autumn 2021

Meet the RCM Council: Douglas Gardner

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Douglas Gardner has been a member of the RCM Council since 2014, and as Chairman of the Estates Committee has played a vital role in the College’s recent building work. He is a Chartered Surveyor, having taken a degree in Land Economy at London University, and is Director of Industrial Realisation plc.

We hear from Douglas about his love of music, his role in the redevelopment of the College campus, and some of his career highlights.

Douglas, where does your love of music stem from, and how did you come to be a member of the Royal College of Music Council?

Like many people of my generation, my primary school involved all children in singing, listening to music and learning to play the descant recorder. Sadly, this is something lacking in today’s primary schools, and why it is so important that great institutions like the RCM take up the challenge and offer an opportunity to young people. 

In my early teenage years my older sister, who played the piano from a young age, gave me a recording of Mozart’s horn concertos. I loved them and still have the recording she gave to me.

Whilst I was born and bred in London, I was also lucky enough to go to a grammar boarding school in Suffolk that was run by the London education authorities. The school was fortunate in that Benjamin Britten took an interest in music at the school and, inter alia, he rehearsed and conducted performances of the school’s production of Let’s Make an Opera. The demand for tickets was overwhelming!

I was originally asked to join the Estates Committee and when Nigel Woolner retired from The Council and the Estates Committee, I was asked if I would join the Council. 

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As Chairman of the RCM Estates Committee, what does your role encompass, and how have you been involved in the recent redevelopment of the College?

The Estates Department, run so smoothly and effectively by Director of Estates Aida Berhamovic, has a number of functions. It is there to ensure the efficient running of all the buildings within the RCM’s control and also to ensure that value for money is achieved with all expenditure.

There is now a vital emphasis in reducing the carbon footprint of the RCM as the RCM attempts to become net carbon neutral by 2035.

The Estates Department also oversees the major developments projects such as Prince Consort Village and the recently completed Courtyard development. These are expensive projects that take a long time in the planning and implementing.

I am fortunate to be the Chairman of the Estates Committee and my role is really to monitor the performance of what is actually happening against the targets that have been set both in terms of time, cost and performance. As a Committee we report to the Finance & General Purposes Committee, which in turn reports to the Council.

The More Music redevelopment of the RCM campus represents a major transformation in terms of what we offer students and visitors. What are you most proud of?

I am proud of what the College has achieved, and all those members of staff who were involved should be proud of the parts they played.

Creating such a beautiful addition to the College is not easy. It takes the commitment and talent of so many people within the College.

First, the vision of what is required to enhance the life of students and the College; then the design, the organisation of the building works, re-arranging life within the building to accommodate the building works, raising the necessary finance, the generosity of sponsors and finally the patience of the students and those who work there, understanding that great work will come out of the inconvenience.

The new performance spaces, the Museum, the new café and the new entrance area have enhanced the life of the building and together with other re-arrangements within the building have made the College a unified entity.

Douglas, you’ve enjoyed a successful career in real estate and as a chartered surveyor for 50 years. What are some of your career highlights?

I qualified, and remain, a Chartered Surveyor. For the last 40 years I have also been a chairman or director of various companies, which have either been quoted on the London Stock Exchange or been held privately. In addition to that, I have either been a chair, director, or investment committee member of investment funds.

I have also been involved in the healthcare sector, where I was fortunate to be appointed a Trustee and then Chairman of Nuffield Health, which is the largest of the UK’s trading charities. Also, a couple of years ago I was asked to join the London Advisory Committee of Penn Medicine, one of the giant US healthcare entities and part of the University of Pennsylvania.

Douglas Gardner is a member of the RCM Council and Chairman of the RCM Estates Committee. Douglas also kindly supports the Douglas and Adele Gardner Award for RCM woodwind scholars.

Learn more about our Council members and the College's governing framework.