Skip to main content


‘Artistically ground-breaking and transformative for Wales:’ RWCMD announces Honorary Fellows 2024

As the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama celebrates its 75th birthday this year, it welcomes ten exceptional artists into its community as Honorary Fellows. They will each be honoured at RWCMD’s graduation ceremony on 4th and 5th July in the College’s Dora Stoutzker Hall.

Share post



Date published

Published on 20/06/2024

This year the College welcomes its Honorary Fellows 2024:

They join RWCMD’s prestigious list of Fellows, awarded each year to honour artists who have achieved distinction in the creative and performing arts industries, building inspiring relationships with the College and its work.

‘This year I am particularly delighted that we are honouring artists whose work has been artistically ground-breaking and transformative for Wales.

In such challenging economic times for the arts, it is even more important to shine a light on those who make the world a better place and are determined to champion the difference that the arts can make to us all as human beings.'
Helena GauntPrincipal

Honorary Fellows - Music

David Adams, leader of the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, 

David Childs, RWCMD graduate and International visiting tutor and Distinguished Research Professor of Euphonium, University of North Texas, 

Grahame Davies, award-winning poet, librettist and lyricist, 

Deborah Keyser, Director of Tŷ Cerdd / Music Centre Wales, 

Lisa Tregale, Director of BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales.

‘Our Honorary Fellows are very important to us at RWCMD. This is our chance to publicly acknowledge the work of senior figures in the music world that have made a significant contribution to the cultural life of Wales and beyond.

This year’s music list is made up of five fantastic individuals who have all made their mark in their various fields, but I’m especially delighted that we work closely with each of them, and they’re great ambassadors for the work we do here.’
Tim Rhys-EvansDirector of Music

Honorary Fellows - Drama

Julia Barry, graduate and Chief Executive Officer, Cardiff's Sherman Theatre,

Mererid Hopwood, award-winning author, poet and arts practitioner,

Shubhra Nayar, graduate and the Artist behind the Real Elephant Collective - see featured image

Gabriella Slade, graduate and Tony award- winning costume designer,

Sean Mathias, actor, director and writer.

‘At a time where the challenges we face seem greater than ever, it’s important to recognise and take inspiration from those in industry who have continued to deliver in their field, no matter what.

Whether it is producing, directing, writing, designing or making, the Fellows we are recognising this year have all striven for excellence in the face of adversity.

They are a group of practitioners that have held onto their integrity, bravery and craft in difficult times and continue to be guiding lights for future generations of theatre makers.‘
Jonathan MunbyDirector of Drama Performance

RWCMD Honorary Fellows 2024

David Adams

David combines his role as leader of the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera with a passion for Chamber music. He has made guest appearances with the Nash Ensemble, the Endellion String Quartet and the Hebrides Ensemble, and has both broadcast and recorded extensively, including most recently the complete Brahms Piano Quintets with the Gould Piano Trio. David has also appeared as guest leader of many of the UK's symphony and chamber orchestras and recently enjoyed playing Principal Viola with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe

David belongs to a musical family, his father was Principal Viola of the Hallé Orchestra, and he is married to the cellist Alice Neary. Alice and David are artistic directors of the Penarth Chamber Music Festival, which takes place each July on Penarth Pier, just outside Cardiff

In addition to all of this, David is a much-valued and respected member of the teaching staff of RWCMD’s Strings department, both with individual students and as a mentor to ensembles and to orchestral performance students. Together with colleagues at WNO, David has championed the collaboration between WNO and RWCMD as together we continue to celebrate our national arts institutions.

Julia Barry

A graduate of RWCMD’s Postgraduate Arts Management course, Julia Barry is the Chief Executive Officer of Cardiff's Sherman Theatre - Wales' largest producing theatre, which has since become a leading national and international theatre. Following a successful 50th Anniversary year in 2023, the Sherman was shortlisted for The Stage Theatre of the Year Award, being described as ‘a theatre making work that is both firmly rooted in its local community, but of a genuinely world-class standard’. Julia was also listed in The Stage 100 list of the mostl influential performing arts creatives in the sector.

In November 2019, under Julia's guidance, the Sherman became the first Refugee Sanctuary in Wales, a haven of diversity, inclusivity and protection for asylum seekers and refugees arriving in this city.

As a member of RWCMD’s alumni community, Julia has always worked closely with the College to optimise co-production and collaboration between the organisations. As well as hosting RWCMD productions, within which large numbers of both drama and music students have performed, Julia continues to support opportunities for placement experience for creative designers, stage and arts managers.

David Childs

David is an RWCMD graduate, international visiting tutor and full-time Professor of Euphonium at the University of North Texas, where he’s just been awarded the 2024 University Distinguished Research Professorship Award, in recognition of his unique creative life, his ongoing practical research and boundless productivity.

The grandson and son of well-respected euphonium players from the Welsh Valleys, he’s been described by The Observer as ‘a great ambassador for the euphonium, possessing an astonishing technique and an engaging stage presence’. He’s toured extensively throughout Asia, continental Europe, and North America. 

A keen advocate of new music, David has premièred fifteen concertos for the euphonium, working with composers such as Alun Hoddinott, Sir Karl Jenkins and Christian Lindberg. As a Buffet Crampon Besson Artist, David continues to showcase the euphonium as a serious solo vehicle within the world of classical music, leading the way for euphonium players worldwide.

At the turn of the millennium, David won the Brass final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year and since then has appeared as a soloist with many of the finest orchestras, festivals brass bands and military bands throughout the world.

In recognition of this work, David has received myriad awards, including the Arts Council for Wales Creative Wales Award, the Worshipful Company of Musicians Silver Medal Award.

David's website: Home - David Childs (

Grahame Davies

Welsh poet, author and lyricist Grahame Davies has won numerous prizes for his writing, including the Wales Book of the Year award. He has been praised for his ‘inspirational’ and ‘public poetic’ voice and his ability to ‘bring a new world-view on Welsh life.’

Among his many awards, his first volume of poetry Adennill Tir (‘Reclaiming Land’) won the Harri Webb Memorial Prize. In that same year, Grahame was awarded his doctorate from the University of Wales for his study, in the Welsh Language, of the anti-modern movement, from which was produced his critically acclaimed book Sefyll yn y Bwlch (‘Standing in the Gap’). His second volume of Poetry won the Welsh Arts Council’s ‘Book of the Year’ award in 2002; in 2004 his first Novel Rhaid i bopeth newid (‘Everything must change’) was award-nominated; Grahame has won prizes at the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol from 1994-2022 and has adjudicated regularly at the Eisteddfod and other literary festivals. Grahame’s work has been translated into numerous languages, including German, Latvian, Maltese, Bulgarian and even English.

As a librettist, Grahame has worked with many contemporary composers, including Sir Karl Jenkins, Paul Maelor, Debbie Wiseman, Nigel Hess and Joanna Gill,

For the Coronation of King Charles III, Grahame wrote the text of ‘Sacred Fire’, set to music by Sarah Class and performed by South African Soprano, Pretty Yende. Grahame oversaw the musical programme for the Coronation, ensuring that Welsh, Gaelic and Irish languages were included for the first time and that there was an unprecedented level of ethnic and gender diversity in the commissioned composers, soloists and musicians.

Mererid Hopwood

Mererid Hopwood has spent her career in the fields of languages, literature, education and the arts. In 2001 she became the first woman to win the National Eisteddfod of Wales’ Chair for poetry, and since then has also won the Eisteddfod’s Crown for poetry (2003) and Prose Medal (2008). Among the other awards for her literary work are the Welsh Book of the Year prize for poetry in 2016, the 2018 Tir na n’Og prize for her writing for children, and the St David’s Day First Minister award in 2017.

She has been children’s poet laureate of Wales (Bardd Plant Cymru) and in 2023 was awarded the Hay Festival’s Poetry Medal.

Mererid has collaborated across multiple artforms, creating works with visual artists, actors, dancers and musicians, writing libretto for composers such as Gareth Glyn, and Christopher Tin, and having two major works premiered with Bryn Terfel at the Wales Millennium Centre. She is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the Academi Gymreig, and Honorary President of the Waldo Williams Society.

Mererid is Professor of Welsh and Celtic Studies in Aberystwyth University, and Secretary of Academi Heddwch Cymru (Wales’ peace institute). In April 2024 she became Archdruid of Wales.

She combines her passion, enthusiasm and dedication to the creative arts in Wales with her lifelong career in education. In 2020, coming through the disruption of Covid, Mererid composed a poem, written bilingually, dedicated to RWCMD graduates.

Deborah Keyser

Deborah Keyser is Director of Tŷ Cerdd / Music Centre Wales, which works to promote and develop music of Wales through a range of activities with music-creators and collaborations with organisations and communities – all under the slogan: ‘If you’re making music in Wales, it’s Welsh music!’.

Welsh born-and-bred, she studied music at Cardiff University and postgraduate Orchestral Studies at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, before starting her career working at the BBC (Radio 3 and BBC Music Magazine). A period in orchestral management and opera production followed – before she moved back to Wales in 2005 to work with Creu Cymru (where she became Director in 2010), working with theatres, performers, produces and audiences across Wales.

Deborah's commitment to advocacy and widening access across so many musical genres and different protected characteristics continues to be sector-leading and influential beyond the borders of Wales. She has created many different pathways into music, supporting newcomers, young professionals and experienced practitioners in developing their craft, as well as leading a recording label that showcases the extraordinary richness and versatility among Welsh musicians.  

She has been President of the ISM and is now Vice President of the International Association of Music Councils. 

Deborah is currently a Trustee of Anthem Music Fund Wales and Friends of National Orchestra of Wales, and has supported the College and its students, with a focus on developing a joint presence at the National Eisteddfod since 2018.

Sean Mathias

Swansea-born Sean Mathias has had a huge impact on the arts sector across Wales and the UK as a successful theatre director, film director, writer and actor.

As a theatre director, Sean has worked on highly acclaimed theatre productions in London, New York, Cape Town, Los Angeles and Sydney, as well as Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre. His debut movie as a director was 'Bent', which won the Prix de la Jeunesse at Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and Best Feature Film at the Torino International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in 1998. Sean has won various other awards including a Whats On Stage Award, a Fringe First at Edinburgh and the Best Director by London Critics Circle Theatre Award.

Sean is passionately Welsh and his dedication to addressing inequalities within the arts sector and nurturing the next generation of creative and cultural leaders can be seen in his championing of the College, and support through scholarships and other work.

Shubhra Nayar

Shubhra is a designer for performance, visualising and creating for mainstream theatre, dance and life-size puppetry. Her evolving creative practice explores the inner ecology of the body and the intuitive human psyche, through energetics, movement, sound, and natural rhythms of the Earth. The exploration of a 'universal' aesthetic, symbiotic and collaborative creation, and organic design processes that spiral out from a core, are central to her creative process.

With a Bachelor's Degree in Textile Design from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India and a Masters in Theatre Design from RWCMD, Shubhra has designed for performances across the UK and India. Some of her well-travelled work has been with performances that have challenged social, cultural and gender dynamics.

Her role as Founder and Designer at the Real Elephant Collective has grown out of her close involvement with the forests and communities in the Nilgiris, South India. Since 2015, this work has evolved around ideas of the Coexistence of all natural species, including rather than excluding humans. One of the manifestations of this idea has been worldwide exhibitions of 100s of life-size elephants in collaboration with Conservationist Tarsh Thekaekara and Creative Associate Ruth Ganesh. While Shubhra designs every elephant based on a real wild elephant, the collaborative nature of the creation process with large indigenous teams and the immense impact the Coexistence project has had in shifting the paradigm on human-nature relationships, has kept her deeply inspired and committed to the process.

This project has been widely supported across India, Japan, Switzerland, the UK and the US, by HRH King Charles & Queen Camilla, philanthropists Rohini Nilekani and Pheroza & Jamshed Godrej , and renowned women like Cher, Kris Tompkins, Jane Goodall and Susan Sarandon, drawing attention to Coexistence as being immense and vital to a renewal of the human as an essential co-creator within the natural world.

Shubhra's website: About | shubhra-nayar-1 (

Gabriella Slade

Award winning designer Gabriella Slade graduated from the RWCMD from the BA in Theatre Design in 2012 and has become one of the leading Costume Designers of her generation, working both in the United Kingdom and internationally.

Her costume designs for the best-selling musical ‘SIX’, based on the concept of re-imagining the six wives of Henry VIII as a pop band, has been studded with awards, including the Tony Award for Best Costume Design of Musical, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design of a Musical in 2022, and a nomination for the Olivier Award for Best Costume Design in 2019. The Catherine of Aragon costume can now be seen as part of the Victoria & Albert theatre and performance archival collection, which is a career highlight.

Gabriella also designed the costumes for the Spice World Arena tour in 2019. She won the Whatsonstage award for Best Costume Design for ‘The Cher Show’, 2023, and has just created the costumes for Andrew Lloyd-Webber's reimagining of ‘Starlight Express’.

Gabriella's website: GABRIELLA SLADE

Lisa Tregale

Lisa Tregale started her career at the Dartington International Summer School, working with Artistic Director Gavin Henderson in the development of one of the most successful multi-genre summer schools and festivals in the country. Lisa participated fully in the UK and European cultural sectors gaining experience in posts such as Executive Board member of the British Arts Festival Association and Vice President of the Conference of Promoters of New Music.

In 2004, Lisa became Director of Beaford Arts, a rural arts organisation working with communities across northern Devon and the beyond. In 2006 Lisa was appointed as CEO to create South West Music School, a centre of advanced training for exceptionally talented young musicians aged between 8 and 18. Through this role she played an active role in shaping music and music education agendas/strategies on a national level and was Founder/ Chair of Foundations for Excellence; an initiative focused on health and wellbeing in the training of young musicians and dancers.

Following this Lisa became Head of Participation and a senior manager of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, working across all areas of musical participation from early years to older people in residential care and everything in between. It was at Bournemouth that Lisa founder BSO Resound – the first disabled-led professional embedded in a professional symphony orchestra – and instigated the debate on disability inclusion in the orchestral sector.

Since January 2020 Lisa has been the Director of BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales and an Executive Board member of BBC Cymru Wales - leading on strategy for the Nation's professional Symphony Orchestra and the governance of Wales' contribution to BBC broadcast and public service to Inform, Education and Entertain.

She is also a Trustee of The Aloud Charity, Cerebral Palsy Cymru, Dartington International Summer School Foundation and a Board Member of the Association of British Orchestras.

Other news posts