Jude Kelly, 57, joined Southbank Centre as artistic director in 2005. She was previously artistic director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and Battersea Arts Centre.

What was your earliest ambition?

My greatest excitement was putting on plays with the neighbours’ children. I’ve always had a passion for telling a story.

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

Quarry Bank in Liverpool. I knew I wanted to be a director so I studied drama at Birmingham university – at that time there were only four courses that did drama as a single honours degree.

Who is your mentor?

My former head teacher, Bill Pobjoy. He loved tricky customers and I was quite a wayward child.

How physically fit are you?

I run but most specifically I windsurf.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Ambition is finally the more important driver.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

I haven’t and I’ve always found them really irritating.

How politically committed are you?

It makes me hugely frustrated that we don’t allow children to explore the arts as a right. I’m politically committed to changing that.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

I just do the small things, I couldn’t put myself forward as a shining example.

Do you have more than one home?

One home in the city is enough.

What’s your biggest extravagance?


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

A beach hut on a very windy promontory and every size board and sail, so whatever the conditions I could go out windsurfing.

In what place are you happiest?

Definitely when I’m with my family. The passionate love affair I’m having with Southbank Centre is a great happiness.

What ambitions do you still have?

Lots. I can’t imagine not working until I die, so one ambition is living a long time because I enjoy it so much. Realising a way to let more people use the arts to change their lives. And making films.

What drives you on?

New ideas.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Remaining idealistic.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

Losing two close friends because of a row was disappointing. I lost a son and my sister who died but disappointment is too small a word.

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

“Why aren’t you still singing?” I used to sing a lot when I was 20. I still believe in the same things; I hope she’d be glad.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

I usually leave jobs with no job to go to on purpose, to get rid of certainty for a while. I relish starting again. I hope I’d rise to the challenge.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Absolutely. Partly because my sister died of multiple sclerosis. I would never have thought it was up to her family to decide anything but I would have wanted her to feel she had the choice.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

No, but I heard a wonderful lecture on how we were made from stardust, the things from the big bang, and we go back into the stars. It’s a perfect metaphor.

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

For what life has given me, 9 to 10. For what I have contributed back again, not enough yet.

Southbank Centre’s Women of the World festival runs from March 7-11 2012. For details visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk/wow

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