Meet the Management: Ian Maclay, Managing Director


Ian Maclay, Managing Director

Tell us a bit about your working history with the Orchestra

I started at the RPO after college and did lots of fairly junior jobs that helped me to understand how the Orchestra was run. I was young and keen, so there was never any shortage of tasks to be undertaken. Gradually I moved to more senior posts and ultimately Managing Director in 1981. Since then, I spent some time away at the BBC but returned in 2001 as I have always felt that my heart was with the RPO.

Describe your typical working day for you (if there is such a thing!)

Most days involve talking to other members of the management team to see if there are any issues that have to be addressed. If the RPO is working that day, then I will try to attend the rehearsal, concert or recording session to see the players and to chat to conductors and soloists. I feel that it is important for the Orchestra to see me and to have the opportunity to get things ‘off their chest’, so that they feel they have an influence over the decisions made, which affect their lives. We all gets load of emails; I catch up with them as I go along, and on and off I will phone concert promoters, managers and agents to plan forthcoming concerts.

What are the things you like best about running an orchestra such as the RPO?

Well the best thing is seeing and hearing the end product. It is a wonderful experience to plan a concert (sometimes years in advance), see it gradually come together and then finally sit in the concert hall with (hopefully) a full house listening to our fabulous orchestra giving another memorable performance. I enjoy the company of the musicians and I am never less than impressed by their dedication and high standards of musicianship.

How do you see orchestras’ and other arts organisations’ futures panning out in this ‘age of austerity’?

There is no question that these are the most financially challenging times I have encountered during my time with the RPO. The cuts in national and local government funding mean that a greater emphasis is now on selling tickets and earning income, as subsidies hit an all-time low in real terms. I believe that partnerships are the way forward, with shared facilities and data as important requirements for the future. Reducing expenditure whilst increasing income is also important. However, it is also a time to show imagination and ingenuity to find ways of getting around the current financial problems and maintaining hopes for better times ahead.

What can audiences expect next from the RPO?

Under the wonderful music direction of Charles Dutoit (the Orchestra’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor), RPO audiences can expect an enterprising series of concerts at the Royal Festival Hall combined with some box office blockbusters at the Royal Albert Hall. We will continue with our concert series at the more intimate Cadogan Hall, which is very popular with our regular patrons. However, there is no excuse for missing the RPO if you live outside London, as next season we will perform over 70 concerts outside the capital!

How do you relax in your spare time?

Now that our kids are grown up, my wife and I look after our ageing golden retriever and whenever I can, I get along to Lord’s Cricket Ground to watch Middlesex. In the winter I transfer my support to Blackburn Rovers, which in recent years has required a very high level understanding. Oh, and I go to some concerts too!


About Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Acknowledged as one of the UK’s most prestigious orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) enjoys an international reputation for bringing audiences worldwide first-class performances and the highest possible standards of music-making across a diverse range of musical repertoire. This was the vision of the Orchestra’s flamboyant founder Sir Thomas Beecham, whose legacy is maintained today as the Orchestra thrives under the exceptional direction of its new Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Maestro Charles Dutoit.
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