Jack Phipps was born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) on December 24, 1925, and educated in the UK and South Africa.
After Oxford University, he joined the Daily Mail, but his desire to get into arts management led him to Harold Holt Ltd, where he worked with Ian Hunter. He was closely involved with Yehudi Menuhin and the Bath Festival, and was also instrumental in setting up the City of London Festival. In 1965, he and his wife Sue established their own artists management, mainly looking after conductors and singers, including Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten.
In 1970, the Arts Council of Great Britain took on responsibility for the Dramatic and Lyric Theatre Association and Jack was appointed its director. This scheme developed into Arts Council Touring, responsible for facilitating, coordinating and funding a wide range of drama, opera and dance across the country.
Phipps was instrumental in securing the future of the number one theatres formerly operated by Moss Empires and Howard & Wyndham, and ensuring their facilities were improved to meet the requirements of companies and customers. He persuaded the arts council to work with commercial producers to improve the supply of first-class work into these venues, securing support for musicals produced by Cameron Mackintosh and plays from a variety of managements.
He played a key role in the establishment of English National Opera North (subsequently Opera North), the Royal Shakespeare Company’s annual season in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and its regional tour of leisure centres in towns without theatres, Opera 80 (subsequently English Touring Opera), and the transformation of Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet into Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Under Phipps’ leadership, Arts Council Touring supported small-scale and experimental work as well as big projects, and operated a ground-breaking marketing network.
In 1981, Phipps left the arts council to run the Aldeburgh Festival, but he returned in 1986 and stayed until his retirement at the beginning of 1992. He was made CBE for services to the arts in 1991.
During his retirement, Phipps indulged in his passion for opera by mounting a number of modest but notable productions in his local church in Suffolk. These continued until 2001 when it became evident he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He passed away peacefully on August 6, aged 84, and is survived by his second wife Sue, his daughter Polly and sons Simon and Martin.
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