2013 winner

Details about the 2013 recipient of the award

Alumnus of the Year 2013: Alistair Spalding CBE

Marking the fourth time we have made the award, this year we are delighted to honour Alistair Spalding CBE: ex-Humanities student, former teacher and now Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Sadler's Wells Theatre, London.

The Alumnus of the Year Award 2013 saw the most number of nominations we have ever received and Alistair was chosen out of a shortlist of eight exceptional candidates, to receive this year's trophy.

Alistair Spalding

Not a rehearsal

Growing up in a working-class Hertfordshire home, Alistair left school at sixteen and was told that he could not go to college because he only possessed two GCE "O" Levels.  Nevertheless, he did not let this hold him back; realising that he would need a degree to help further his career, the young Alistair Spalding completed Legal Executive exams at night school – which were accepted as equivalent to A levels by the then Hatfield Polytechnic in 1977. He graduated in 1980, with a BA(Hons) in Humanities, majoring in Philosophy and Linguistics.

A calling to the arts

After leaving the Polytechnic, Alistair taught in a primary school for six years before becoming an Arts Programmer at the Hawth Theatre, Crawley, where remained until 1994.  He then moved to London's prestigious Southbank Centre as Head of Dance and Performance. In 2000 Alistair joined Sadler's Wells Theatre as Director of Programming and, in 2004, he became the Chief Executive and Artistic Director, a post which he still holds.

'Lord of the Dance'

Referred to in the press as 'the Lord of the Dance', it is as an advocate of all manner of dance forms - with an eye for fresh talent and unconventional approaches - that Spalding has become known for. Since taking the reins, he has transformed the venue into not only presenting performances by touring companies, but also becoming a commissioning production house for dance in its own right. During his tenure so far, amongst many other projects, he has produced Matthew Bourne's infamous all-male Swan Lake, a breath-taking show named Sutra featuring 17 Shaolin Monks, and initiated the Breakin' Convention International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre.

A recognised ambassador

Alistair, who has written and spoken widely, has said, in interviews, that because he started as a teacher, his "instincts are still those of an educator" and that "education goes through everything".  In 2005, he was awarded Le Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French Embassy. He has been a National Member of the Arts Council of England board since 2009 and he is also the former Chairman of Dance UK.  In June 2012, Alistair was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to dance.

Behind the scenes at Sadler's Wells

Find out more about Alistair's role at Sadler's Wells, by watching our exclusive behind-the-scenes film.

Also shortlisted

  • David Henson, BEng Mechanical Engineering 2007
  • Robert Biggs, BEng Aerospace Engineering 1992
  • Matthew King MBE, LLB 2009 and PgDip Legal Practice 2011
  • Dr Shivani Sharma, BSc Psychology 2006 and PhD 2009
  • Tim Parfitt, BA(Hons) Business Studies 1994
  • Dr Sue Attard, EdD 2010
  • Ikpor Isaac Monday, MSc Accounting Finance and Management, 2011