We are all very sad to hear of the death of Sir Christopher Bland last weekend. Sir Christopher was Chairman of the RSC from 2004 until 2011. He died peacefully with his family around him.

The Queen in a bright pink coat standing on the RST stage talking to Sir Christopher Bland
Sir Christopher Bland with Her Majesty The Queen, opening the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 2011.
Photo by Stewart Hemley © RSC – Image Licensing

Our Chairman, Nigel Hugill, said: "Christopher was an inveterate compiler of lists. The one that it would simply never have occurred to him to put together was that which catalogued his own wonderful achievements. Seven crucial years as Chairman of the RSC ought to have been pretty close to the top. The entire organisation, for which he cared so much, is forever in his debt. God bless."  

Our former Artistic Director, Michael Boyd, recalls: “Six months into his new job at the RSC, I introduced Christopher Bland to my then four year old daughter as "my boss, and a good man".  He charmed and confused her with the response that "Neither of those statements are true, but I'm very pleased indeed to meet you". I am lucky to have worked for and with such a good and brilliant man, who had my back, and also kept an eye on my front, for most of my time as Artistic Director.

I had expected, from our first meeting, that the current chairman of BT and former chairman of the BBC would prove a rigorous and effective chairman of the RSC, and I could already sense a humanity and empathy in the man who would become a dear friend, and a true friend to the company, but his quick grasp of the peculiar paradoxes and complexities of a performing arts organisation, and his instinctive engagement with the work itself, remained a wonderful but unexplained (and underrated) bonus to me until I read his first novel Ashes in the Wind, written in retirement, and published in 2014. 

Until then I had enjoyed and admired Christopher as a rather piratical paradox himself: an old-school governance puritan, and a relaxed experimenter and bon viveur; a ruthless slayer of imprecision, bullshit, and bad faith, and a big hearted philosopher in adversity; genuine grandee and humble fanboy; a Tory, who was redistributive, liberal, and moral, believed in society, and thought we were better off multicultural and European.

Once I'd read his novel, I not only had a much better understanding of his other central contradiction; his Anglo-Irishness, but also realised that Christopher had been an artist in corporate supremo's clothing all along. Which is maybe, partly, what made him such an excellent corporate supremo.

A lot of people fancy themselves as possessing hidden talents, and all of us do have a novel in us, but our chairman could actually have made it as a writer, and one of the many many reasons I'm so sad at Christopher's passing is that I won't be able to read all the other wise and stirring stories he would have undoubtedly gone on to write had he lived another 20 years.  In some ways I'm even more proud of Christopher's second, less polished, novel, Cathar, which he wrote while dealing with the pain and exhaustion (and the treatment) of his terminal illness, and which looks mortality straight in the eye, with humanity, grace and courage.

The gift you take away, though, from both of his deeply thoughtful, funny, and impassioned 'yarns', as he called them, is a glorious celebration of life lived to the full, and as well as humanly possible, in a naughty world. And that's how I will remember Christopher.”

And our previous Executive Director, Vikki Heywood, pays tribute: “A great friend, colleague and a born leader, Christopher never failed to give wise, wise counsel.  I will miss him terribly." 

Our thoughts are with his family and friends. 

Gregory Doran and Catherine Mallyon

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