Fond Farewells (and Happy Hellos)

Fond Farewells (and Happy Hellos)


Managing Director

I’ve been at Southbank Sinfonia barely a blink of an eye (more on that in my next blog), but even in these short few months I - and the rest of the team here - have had to say some fond farewells to members of the office staff. 

Southbank Sinfonia is a small, close-knit team so I think we feel each of these losses rather keenly, and even if you are only an occasional attendee you may well wonder why some faces familiar to you are no longer around, so here’s a little update for you. 

Alison Brand, our Orchestra Manager, left us just a few weeks ago, moving on to the City of London Sinfonia. Alison had been with us for three and a half years, having initially started as our Orchestra Assistant and Librarian. As Orchestra Manager, Alison was responsible for basically getting the orchestra to be formed of the right number of musicians, playing the right thing, at the right time in the right place. So all in all, a pretty crucial role. It’s always a job that needs a rare combination of attention to detail, humour and physicality, and (in Alison’s case) a love of squishies, so we’re really sad to say bye to her, though know that like everyone who works here, she’ll stay in touch.

Alison when everything is going right in her final concert with Southbank Sinfonia 

Earlier in the summer we also said cheerio to Déarbhaile Nairn, our Artist Development Manager. It’s a personal sadness to me that only now, when she has actually left, am I able to type her name without checking the spelling. Anyhow, Derv, as she’s known, was another key member of our team and basically responsible for curating a programme of events and training for the professional development of our musicians. As well as this she was something of a ‘Mother Hen’ (albeit quite a sarcastic, acerbic Irish one… ) for our players, looking after their well-being, advising them on their careers and playing an important role in terms of pastoral care. Derv left us for a new role at Trinity Laban back in September and I will, in particular, miss her Northern Irish pronunciation of ‘Mirrors’ and ‘Towel’. She’s already been back to a couple of events so we look forward to staying in close touch.

Derv (centre) as part of a human snail in a Wigmore Learning Workshop this year

Last but by no means least our much-loved Finance Director, Jan Bonar, left us in November. Jan is probably the longest-serving member of staff in our history, having been here 12 years. She’s seen the organisation evolve from small beginnings to the institution that it is now, and saw her own career evolve from general administration into that of an incredibly well regarded orchestral finance expert. Jan knew Southbank Sinfonia, and its finances, inside out and I know was incredibly sad to have to leave, with the news that she was expecting twins. Her forensic financial eye, acerbic wit, massive institutional knowledge and wry eye on things are already massively missed, and I expect to be emailing her slightly annoying random questions for quite some while yet.

Jan (far right) with the team at the Anghiari Festival, Italy (2014)

So, three rather sad goodbyes. But of course, that means three new members of the team as well. Sarah Whitston joined us as Finance Director in November, joining us from the Body Shop. Prior to that, she had finance roles with the LSO and the Roundhouse. We are all greatly enjoying over-hearing her increasingly exasperated calls with Barclays – who knew that doing something as simple as changing signatories on a business account could take several months? 

Marcus Norman is our new Artist Development Manager, having spent the last few years with Opera North. Replacing the Northern Irish accent of his predecessor with the tones of his native New Zealand, he’s already teaching us about the culinary highlights of his native country, including the intriguingly named ‘Pineapple Lumps’. 

Last but not least, Tom Hickman is joining us as Orchestra Manager, having spent the last 18 months fulfilling a similar role at our Welsh equivalent, Sinfonia Cymru. A former bassoonist and part-time reedmaker, the most used adjective about him by former colleagues has been ‘unflappable’, which is truly a core competency of any Orchestra Manager. Oh, and a love of Gin has also been frequently mentioned too…

You can read more about all our new team members here, and if you see them about at concerts and events, please do say hello.

Find out more about William here.