Professor George Fleming, chair of The Board of Trustees, John Mather Trust
Professor George Fleming, chair of The Board of Trustees, John Mather Trust

Arts legacy supports the Conservatoire

The legacy of a business visionary and philanthropist with a lifelong passion for the arts is to support Scotland’s national conservatoire.

The John Mather Trust is supporting the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) in its mission to make the performing arts as accessible as possible. Through two headline events, the Blue Mondays jazz concert series and this year’s festive show, Cinderella, the trust’s funding boost will enhance the institution’s award-winning widening access programme.

The late John Mather, a lifelong employee of Glasgow-based Clydeport, believed in helping young people pursue their dreams.

The trust, which he established before his death in 2001, has helped thousands across the west of Scotland realise their potential and career aspirations. Recipients include Royal Conservatoire of Scotland students who have received grants through its Rising Star funding programme.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: ‘Performance is at the heart of everything we do at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and we want as many people as possible to experience the transformative power of the arts.

‘The Royal Conservatoire and the John Mather Trust share many of the same values – a passion for the arts and a commitment to providing pathways for young people to fulfil their potential and achieve their ambitions. We are grateful to the trust for its support and look forward to working with them to open up opportunities to young people in the west of Scotland, while inspiring and engaging new audiences.’

Professor George Fleming, chair of the John Mather Trust, said: ‘It was my pleasure to work with John and I know that using his legacy to widen access to the arts for young people in the west of Scotland would have brought him immense pleasure.

Professor George Fleming, chair of The Board of Trustees, John Mather Trust

‘We could not be happier to support the great work that the Conservatoire does in taking the arts to a wider audience.’

The Widening Access to the Creative Industries (WACI) programme at RCS, in association with Focus West, works with secondary school pupils in the west of Scotland who are interested in the performing or production arts.

With the John Mather Trust’s support, pupils from target schools will be invited to Cinderella and will be given a fascinating peek behind the scenes on a backstage tour, where they’ll experience all the elements that make the magic of theatre come to life. From set and costume design to lighting and sound, it will introduce young people to the variety of careers within the performing arts. Royal Conservatoire production and design staff will also visit the schools to discuss the pathways into the performing and production arts.

The funding will also help to deliver inclusive Cinderella performances for families and groups with children with autism, additional learning needs or other sensory and communications needs, who require a more relaxed environment. There will also be a British Sign Language-interpreted performance of Cinderella.

On the music front, schools that engage with WACI will enjoy a Blue Mondays concert, which showcases the students of the Royal Conservatoire’s jazz programme, the only full-time degree level jazz course in Scotland. It’s led by internationally acclaimed saxophonist Dr Tommy Smith OBE, founder and director of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. A special schools concert will also take place, where teenage pupils, who would like to explore jazz, or develop existing skills, can collaborate with RCS jazz students.

The Blue Mondays jazz concert series at RCS (Photo: Robert McFadzean/RCS)

Bearsden-born John began his career as an office boy in the accounts department of the Clyde Navigation Trust, and would never work anywhere else until his retirement in the late 1990s after 40 years of service. During that time, he not only rose steadily through the ranks, but he was also appointed as the President of the International Association of Ports and Harbours.

In 1966, Clyde Navigation Trust, Greenock Harbour Trust and Clyde Lighthouses Trust merged to form Clyde Port Authority. By 1980, John had been appointed managing director; he had the foresight to see that the world was changing and that ports offered a huge opportunity in a world of increasingly global trade. With John at the helm, Clyde Port Authority, then owner of Glasgow, Greenock and Ardrossan ports, was privatised in 1992 and Clydeport bought the port of Hunterston, near Largs, on the Scottish west coast in 1993. The company successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1994.

The deal brought John £11million and transformed not only his life, but the lives of many of his colleagues. Having come from relatively humble beginnings, John believed passionately that lack of funds should not stop young people from being able to further their chosen careers. He left a financial legacy to establish the John Mather Trust.