Composer, academic, and cultural activist Dr Shirley J. Thompson discusses the importance of constantly questioning the status quo, transforming established narratives, and how music can change the world.

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For references and the transcript of the episode, visit the Laidlaw Scholars Network.

Dr Shirley Thompson OBE is a contemporary classical composer, artistic director, and academic, as well as a known trailblazer and cultural activist. She has forged her own way and created her own voice in musical composition, referencing her Jamaican heritage and the histories of Africa, the Caribbean and the experiences of persons of African descent in Britain.

In 2004, she became the first woman in Europe to have composed and conducted a symphony within the past 40 years – New Nation Rising, performed and recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2019, she was awarded an OBE for her services to music. 

She was recently appointed Professor of Music at the University of Westminster, and featured as one of the changemakers in The Guardian’s 2,000-year history poster of critical events & activists. Dr Thompson has been named in the Evening Standard’s ‘Power List of Britain’s Top 100 Most Influential Black People’ from 2010 to 2020, with the highest position of number 8. 

In this episode of The Good Leader podcast, Dr Thompson discusses her extraordinary story of success and how she has been using classical music to tell stories and rewrite accepted narratives, changing the representation of women and persons of visibly African heritage in history.

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Visit Dr Thompson’s website here.