The Inventory: Harvey Goldsmith

Impresario Harvey Goldsmith, 67, has staged events including 1985’s Live Aid and Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd concerts. He was created CBE in 1996.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be a pharmacist, working on perfumery.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Eleven-plus and grammar school, Christ’s College. Loved every minute of it, including getting generally beaten up for being a naughty boy. I then went to Brighton College of Technology to do a CNAA course in pharmacy, but just after I started all those courses were stopped. I was terribly disillusioned. I had turned up at the student union and said that we should open a club and the president said, “Go on, then, genius.” I opened a club in January 1966. And that was the start.

Who was your mentor?

In England, Lord Grade. In America, Frank Barsalona – he owned an agency called Premier Talent, he created the model for the promoting business. And Ahmet Ertegün, head of Atlantic Records. Between them, those two introduced me to America.

How physically fit are you?

Reasonably. I can’t bear gyms but I run round the bed. And I walk a hell of a lot more than I used to.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Talent. Ambition comes with the job; talent is innate.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?


How politically committed are you?

I’m very politically motivated on a wide church of what the word “politics” means. I’m sick of dealing with bureaucrats who don’t know their arses from their elbows – who can’t see what’s wrong and how easy it would be to put things right.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Very, very much. We’ve won prizes for being eco-friendly at our offices. I think it’s terribly important that individuals play their part. I’m an investor in a company called Recyclebank – you get rewards for the effort you make.

Do you have more than one home?


What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A crane. I’d rent it out, it would be my pension for life.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Doing absolutely nothing.

In what place are you happiest?

Ten minutes after a good event finishes.

Ambition: to help resolve the future of the Olympic Stadium

What ambitions do you still have?

I’m trying to push the Legacy group on the future of the Olympic Stadium. I came up with a solution for the Dome, now the most popular music venue in the world, and I believe I could be a lot of help with the Olympic Park.

What drives you on?


What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

The whole Band Aid movement. It started a global new way of giving.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

For entrepreneurs, things go wrong as much as they go right and you learn from it.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

He’d be a bit surprised, to be honest.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Start again.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

No. But equally I believe the ageing process and the way we as a society are dealing with it are awful.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Am I religious? Deep down, yes. Do I believe in an afterlife? I don’t know.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?


Harvey Goldsmith is appearing at the Editorial Intelligence ideas festival Names Not Numbers in association with FT Weekend;

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