Arts Council England (ACE) has announced that Darren Henley, head of Classic FM since 1999, is to be its new chief executive. The announcement comes just as previous ACE head, Alan Davey, prepares to take up his new role as controller of Radio 3 – Classic FM’s arch rivals – in January.

Henley’s suitability for the job is not based solely on his experience at Classic FM. As well as heading up the commercial radio station for the last 15 years, Henley has authored two government reviews into music and cultural education and has written 27 books about music and the arts. Most recently he was co-author (with Sir John Sorrell and Paul Robertsof The Virtuous Circle: Why Creativity and Cultural Education Count. In 2013 he received an OBE for services to music.

Henley carried out two independent reviews for the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport into music and cultural education, which were published in 2011 and 2012. These are credited with leading to a variety of new initiatives including England’s first National Plan for Music Education, a new network of Music Education Hubs, the Museums and Schools programme and the creation of the National Youth Dance Company.

Vitality and creativity

Henley released the following statement on accepting the new role: “Public investment has ensured the vitality and creativity of England’s cultural life. Arts Council England and the artists, performers and institutions we invest in contribute to who we are as a nation. I’m privileged to have the opportunity to lead this important organisation and support the extraordinary creativity and innovation that exists across the country in arts organisations, museums, galleries and libraries…

“Alan Davey leaves quite a legacy. He made sure that the Arts Council enabled great work to happen. I want to build on that by working with our National Chair and the Chairs of our Area Councils to champion the importance of art and culture in so many aspects of our lives – personal, social and economic.

“Of course we must be responsive and adapt to the world around us, but the foundation stone is laid in terms of the Arts Council’s ten year strategy. I look forward to working with the Arts Council teams around the country, particularly Althea Efunshile who is acting as Chief Executive until I arrive. Together, all of us at Arts Council England will continue to strive towards achieving great art and culture for everyone, no matter who they are or where they are in England.”

Chair of ACE Sir Peter Bazalgette added: “The role of CEO of the Arts Council requires a broad range of skills including a deep well of leadership experience, the ability to navigate the corridors of Whitehall and Westminster and a determination to make art and culture matter for individuals, for our communities and our country.

“Darren has already had a significant influence on the cultural education policy of this country and is a worthy successor to Alan Davey.”

Henley’s start date at ACE will be announced once a mutually acceptable time has been agreed with his current employer.

More on

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2013: How was it for you? – Peter Bazalgette – Chair of Arts Council England reflects on his first year in the role