Profile

Kenneth Tharp CBE

Trustee

Kenneth is a key figure in the UK arts and culture scene with close to 40 years professional experience in the sector. He is currently working as a freelance Arts & Culture Consultant. 

He began his career as a dancer; as one of the leading dance artists of his generation, he performed for 13 years with the internationally-acclaimed London Contemporary Dance Theatre, and then with other leading companies during a 25-year career as a performer, choreographer, teacher and director. With composer Simon Redfern, he was co-director of ArtyfartyArts, a multi-disciplinary arts group, from 1998-2004, and has been involved in many music and dance collaborations across a huge variety of musical genres and settings. 

From 2007 to 2016, he was Chief Executive of The Place, the UK’s leading centre for contemporary dance development. From May 2018 to Sept 2020, he was Director of The Africa Centre, in its new home in Southwark. He was proud to have led such an iconic organisation, at a time when its role as a home for contemporary African and diaspora culture and heritage, is needed now, more than ever. 

In 2020 he was honoured to be appointed Chair of the judging panel for the prestigious AKO Caine Prize for African Writing.

He is a devoted champion of the arts, cultural learning, creativity and diversity, and frequently presents as a keynote speaker in a variety of contexts, from schools to leadership courses, industry related events and the corporate sector. He has been a regular contributor to Speakers for Schools. 

He has served on various arts Boards, including The Royal Opera House and The Royal Opera House Benevolent Fund. He is currently a Patron of Akademi and The Place, and a Trustee of choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company, and the Chineke! Foundation and Orchestra. He is also Vice-Chair of a School Governing Body, and sits on the British Council’s Arts & Creative Enterprise Advisory Group. 

He has appeared in eight successive editions of the annual Powerlist of Britain’s most influential people of African and African-Caribbean heritage, as well as in Who’s Who.

In 2003 Kenneth was made an OBE in recognition of his services to dance, and in June 2017 was made a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, also in recognition of his services to dance.