Knowledge Quarter #3: Kenneth Tharp OBE, The Place


The UK’s premier centre for contemporary dance highlights the broad range of organisations involved in the KQ. Here’s why…



Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, Chief Executive of the UK’s premier centre for contemporary dance development. Photo: Retts Wood
Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, Chief Executive of the UK’s premier centre for contemporary dance development: The Place Photo: Retts Wood

Tell us about your organisation.
The Place was founded in 1969 by British philanthropist and dance patron Robin Howard in the former headquarters of the Middlesex Artists’ Rifle Volunteers. Uniting training, creation and performance, it remains a vibrant hub of dance activity and a magnet for aspiring dancers and cutting-edge choreographers from all over the world.

Explain your own role.
As Chief Executive since 2007, I have overall responsibility for leadership and management, including relationships with key funders, while also acting as the public face of the organisation. I first came to The Place in 1978 as an 18 year old dance student. I went on to dance with the resident company, the internationally acclaimed London Contemporary Dance Theatre, directed by the amazing Robert Cohan CBE, Founding Artistic Director of The Place, who’s 90th birthday celebrations are in mid-flow right now. So after spending 16 years of my life here, I spent another twelve or so off having a freelance dance career. Coming back in my current role was unexpected, but it’s been fantastic to return, and I hope I’m giving something valuable back to the organisation that changed my life.

The Place has been in its Duke's Rd home for over 45 years
The Place has been in its Duke’s Rd home for over 45 years

What does your organisation’s participation in the Knowledge Quarter plan to achieve?
Despite being a vital presence in the dance scene for over 45 years, I expect The Place remains something of a hidden gem to many people. Through our engagement with the Knowledge Quarter this is an opportunity for us to be more visible to the people who live, work and study in this area, along with the many tourists who pass through.

What excites you most about the new spirit in and around King’s Cross?
New people moving to the area, or students coming to study simply take for granted that this is how it is, where as some of us remember how King’s Cross was 35 years ago and continue to be amazed at the transformation. It’s so full of energy with an incredible agglomeration of different types of creative and knowledge organisations sitting smack beside each other. I love that!


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We often hear that ‘knowledge is power’. What other word or phrase would you say knowledge is?
Knowledge is making personal sense out of the vast quantity of information that is available to us. Knowledge is most valuable when it is embodied in personal lived experience.

More info on The Place, including their events calendar over 200 performances a year.

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For more info on all that’s happening in this exciting new initative, read our main story Just What is the Knowldge Quarter?

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