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A personal tribute to Sir Ken Robinson

A personal tribute to Sir Ken Robinson

Naked Leader Week 888 – 7 September 2020

Time to read: 3 minutes

A personal tribute to Sir Ken Robinson

from Brendan Barns – Founder London Business Forum

Ken Robinson was a hero to many people around the world but especially to me. This is my personal tribute to a great man that changed my life and the lives of so many around the world.

I first met Ken Robinson around 1998 at the Institute of Directors. I knew from the moment I met him that he had superstar quality. He believed in me just as I believed in him and I had the pleasure of being his first speaker agent. Little did I know that he would go on to become one of the most successful speakers in the world.

At that first encounter, he told me that he had recently done a speech where he had been so funny that one of the guests had fallen off their chair with laughter. I included this promise in his first promotional biog. After his first speech delivered for Speakers for Business he asked for this promise to be removed as whilst one of the funniest speakers you would have ever have the pleasure to enjoy he couldn’t guarantee this impact every time.

Ken was named SfB European Business Speaker of the Year in 1999.

I was able to sell Ken into just about any speaking enquiry. He had the unique ability of combining intellectual rigor with stand-up comedy. Ken’s timing was immaculate. I sent him across the UK, Europe and the world. He had a huge impact on all audiences wherever he appeared.

On 30 March 2000, Ken and I met with Mark Allin and Simon Benham of Capstone and planned Ken’s first book ‘Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative’. It would become a bestseller as did all his books.

In 2001, Ken was appointed to a new role at the Getty Centre in Los Angeles and I had the pleasure of managing speaking tours on his returns to Europe.

On 21 March 2002 Ken was the closing keynote speaker at the inaugural London Business Forum. He walked on stage and announced he had recently had lunch with Paul McCartney and then looked as if he was leaving the stage. No-one who was there will ever forget that speech. Ken had such magic, such prowess of delivery that anyone who was lucky enough to hear him speak would never forget the experience.

In November 2002 we organised an event with John Cleese and Ken. You can probably guess who brought the house down with laughter, Ken made John look very serious indeed.

On 29 October 2003 Ken became Sir Ken and I had the honour of joining him and his family at The Ritz to celebrate. It is a day I will never forget.

We stayed in touch over the years and I watched with pride as Ken’s appearance at TED catapulted him into the global spotlight. It was richly deserved and his ideas had such resonance. Ken’s powerful messages about inspiring creativity and encouraging the arts are more important now than ever.

I last saw Ken in January this year and he gave me a signed copy of the new edition of Out of Our Minds with a personal note that I will treasure forever. I had the opportunity to let him know that playing a small role in his extraordinary journey was not only a highlight of my professional career but is and will always remain a highlight of my life.

My thoughts and condolences go out to his wife, Lady Terry and his children, Kate and James and his whole family.

Sir Ken leaves a powerful legacy which I know will be honoured. We are lucky to have his extraordinary words and speeches that will continue to inspire us.

Thank you Brendan



Clair Carpenter – Harvard Psychologist – and I will be sharing a ‘virtual’ stage at Brendan’s London Business Forum:

How to be successful by being yourself – remove the imposter syndrome

To book: Virtual event at The London Business Forum

Tuesday 15 September 2020 – 9.30am to 11.30am

Book here:

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