2 June 1946 |
London, Greater London, England
|Occupation||Founding Principal & Chief Executive of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts|
Mark Featherstone-Witty OBE (born 2 June 1946 in London) is an educator and entrepreneur. He is the Founding Principal and Chief Executive of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) which he created in the mid-1990s, after creating the British Record Industry Trust BRIT School in Croydon.
Early life and education
Born in London, to Evy and Philip Featherstone-Witty, he was an only child of parents who divorced when he was eleven. His secondary school was Wellington College (1959–1967) which proved an unsuitable school for the performing arts, although he did manage to produce, direct and act in a play. He charts his interest in the performing arts from the time he saw the 1933 film 42nd Street, when he was eight, at the National Film Theatre in London.
After an unsuccessful career start in accountancy and a few years teaching in prep schools in Kent and Oxford, he attended The University of Durham (1969–1972), taking a general degree and remained for a further year to gain a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. He edited the university newspaper ‘Palatinate’ and continued to direct plays and perform. He created and edited a regional arts magazine for the North-East of England, ‘Face North’.
Before leaving, he gained the Gertrude Cole Fellowship at Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, which he completed a year later, in counselling and psychology (M.Ed.) and was also elected to the US highest honour society. During his year in the United States, he continued to perform and appeared as a hairdresser in the 1974 Sackett – Hugh film production ‘The Meal’, later renamed ‘Deadly Encounter’.
After a spell in London comprehensive schools, he joined Macmillan Education as an Assistant Editor, co-creating one of their most successful English textbook series. He left to teach at The Leventhorpe School, a comprehensive school in Hertfordshire, while additionally being the Consultative Education Editor for Quartet Books (1984–1986) and writing book reviews and profiles for a variety of national magazines and newspapers.
He became Principal of Holborn Tutorial College for two years before founding his own tutorial college, Capital College, in 1980. For the next nine years, he either created, co-created or assisted two further private enterprise further education colleges (The London School of Insurance and The London School of Publishing) and a television production company (Rainbow Education) which developed a six-part television series, ‘Whose Town Is It Anyway?’ for the then embryonic Channel Four.
During this period, he watched Alan Parker’s’s film Fame and decided that the next venture was to be a performing arts school with a curriculum that focused on achieving lasting work in the arts and entertainment industry. He also decided that the school would be a charity and set about creating the vehicle ‘The Schools for Performing Arts Trust’, bringing Anthony Field, former Finance Director of The UK Arts Council, on board as the Chair and inviting Alan Parker to be the first Patron for what was simply an idea.
The start of The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA)
Raising the developmental and capital costs for a charitable school was tough. The Project Champion was Richard Branson, who had been introduced to Mark Featherstone-Witty by Sir George Martin – the man who Mark Featherstone-Witty still describes as the Godfather of both The BRIT School and LIPA. Through extraordinary timing, a variety of needs could be met through a new performing arts school in London. The Conservative Government needed an attractive project to invigorate its somewhat flagging City Technology College initiative and the British record industry needed political influence – the initially named ‘The London School for Performing Arts and Technology’ was to be the vehicle. It was an awkward birth and has been described in Mark Featherstone-Witty’s 2001 book 'Optimistic, Even Then’.
Through equally extraordinary timing, Paul McCartney was writing his Liverpool Oratorio and decided to relive his schooldays by visiting his old school, the Liverpool Institute for Boys. He was dismayed by the dereliction of the abandoned building and felt that it deserved better. Someone had suggested that Liverpool needed a performing arts school. This idea remained dormant until Sir George Martin suggested Paul McCartney met with Mark Featherstone-Witty.
At the time, well before Liverpool achieved the European Capital of Culture in 2008, Liverpool City Council decided that the city should capitalise on its music heritage and commissioned the report ‘Music City’. Pete Fulwell, then managing The Christians, found Mark Featherstone-Witty through Island Records, the record label the band was signed to.
It was the education/training section of the report that described LIPA’s blueprint.
Once again, led by Mark Featherstone-Witty, the developmental and capital funding proved inevitably hard. In the end, the £20m funding was split three ways: Liverpool City Challenge, The European Union and the private sector. The largest donors in the last category were Paul McCartney and the German consumer electronics company, Grundig.
LIPA opening to today
LIPA celebrated its tenth birthday in January 2006 with a performance at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and a new book, 'LIPA - The First Ten Years in Pictures', written by Mark Featherstone-Witty.
There have been a variety of highlights, the most rewarding being the achievement of the initial dream of sustained work. Most recent figures have shown that over the most recent four-year period, 93% of LIPA’s graduates are in work three years after leaving, while 87% work in the performing arts. To achieve this, the curriculum is constantly being revised.
LIPA was designated in 2006 – the first new higher education institution to have been started from scratch in living memory. As a performing arts HEI, LIPA is attended by the highest number of international students in the UK.
LIPA has been awarded the Gold Standard from Investors in People.
LIPA also has the highest concentration of Fellows and Associates recognised by The Higher Education Academy.
In May 2013, the government confirmed they would be supporting the LIPA Primary School which will open in September 2014.
He enjoys other activities close to his heart. He was the Chair of the Sefton Park Palm House – a restored Victorian temperate glass house in the park close to his home. He was a Board Member of the National Academy of Writing. He is a Director of Drama UK.He is also a Board Member of the Royal Court Theatre Liverpool Trust which completed the first phase of restoration in 2011 and aims to further refurbish this grand art deco theatre.He has been a judge for The Liverpool Music Awards since 2012. He is a Member and Director of The LIPA Primary School. He is a Director of the Sell A Door Theatre Company.
2001 Optimistic, Event Then
2006 LIPA in Pictures; The First Ten Years
Blogs for The Huffington Post
- ‘'Mark Featherstone-Witty profile on The BRIT school website ,
- "Now it looks as though they're here to stay". The Guardian. 24 January 2006. Retrieved 2006-01-24.
- ‘'Optimistic, Even Then ,
- LIPA - The First Ten Years in Pictures,
- ‘'LIPA website - About LIPA ,
- ‘'LIPA website - International Students ,
- The London Gazette: . 14 June 2014.