Graham Bamford

Graham Bamford

Graham Bamford is General Manager of the Royal Garden Hotel. Both he and the hotel support RCM musicians in a variety of ways, as he explains…


Tell us about your involvement with the RCM?

Well, the Royal Garden Hotel reopened to the public in 1996 and we were approached by the College at that time to see if we could work together.

The hotel is very supportive of music in general and we reached a solution quite quickly – the hotel would provide around 35 rooms a year for visiting conductors who are performing at the College and reciprocally we would be able to hold receptions in the Donaldson Room, prior to RCM concerts.

The life of the hotel is very much about relationships – with long-term customers, suppliers, local councillors, Kensington Palace and so on – and through the receptions we’ve hopefully been able to introduce a lot of people to the College, many of whom have gone onto become Friends of the RCM.


What about your friendship with John Wilson?

I came across John Wilson just as he was leaving College. At that point he had an orchestra of 16 players, and when I heard it I decided I had to have them here at the hotel. So I spoke to John, and once a month for about eight years he came here to perform during our Manhattan Nights. I think for John it was chance to rehearse and fine tune the orchestra, and it was great fun.


Is that how the relationship with the RCM Big Band came about?

When we reached our 40th anniversary three years ago, we wanted to do something extra special. It was decided that we’d host a light orchestral concert at the hotel, and it would be nice if John Wilson could conduct it. It was a fabulous evening, very lavish, and it gave the musicians a different acoustic in which to play.

Then the following year, the RCM Big Band performed in the Palace Suite at the hotel. It was very well received, and we repeated the arrangement again last year. Now the challenge is – what do we do to top that?!


What are the benefits for a business of working with the RCM?

Well, I think the relationship with the College is very much about networking, and being part of the wider community. We’re very keen to help young people – we also sponsored the National Youth Theatre for 10 years – and it’s great to see people you've been involved with at an early stage go on to achieve great careers.

When you see talent such as you’ve got at the RCM it’s great, and the more people we can tell about it, the better.


What about your own music background?

I grew up in Lancashire and my sister was a graduate of the Royal Manchester College of Music. She is nine years older than me and at the time we both played piano. One day she came home with a young clarinettist – none other than RCM Professor Janet Hilton! – and on hearing her play I decided to switch to the clarinet. I have to say that I no longer continue my studies with the piano or clarinet, but I am still very passionate about music.

When you’ve been involved through the RCM with a young musician like John, who is of course now a great friend and who I’ve watched grow over the years, and you see the calibre of the orchestra he has managed to pull together, and you see them performing that type of musicin huge concert halls, you realise it’s great for music, it’s great for diversity.

This interview first appeared in Upbeat (summer 2010), the RCM magazine.

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Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS. Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300 Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS.
Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300
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