A tribute to Bob Lockyer

05 Jun 2022

With great sadness and affection, we say goodbye to our dear friend and trusted colleague Bob Lockyer OBE who has died.

Anyone who knew Bob will concur what an extraordinary spirit he was. For some forty years, he was essentially - under a number of titles - Director of Dance for BBC Television. While such a role no longer singularly exists, it is testament to Bob that he made it indispensable for so long. He filled the screen with vital, original dance broadcasts: relays from the stage and a host of ever-inventive, custom-made studio productions. This led him to collaborate with such iconic choreographers as Martha Graham, Kenneth MacMillan, Merce Cunningham and Frederick Ashton. In 1978, he directed a landmark television production of Stravinsky’s ballet Les noces for which the music was specially recorded by Leonard Bernstein.

Continually, Bob sought to craft fresh ways of capturing dance on film. Central to this was Dance for Camera, the series of over 50 unique films he commissioned for the BBC in collaboration with Arts Council England, as well as his innovative body of work with Robert Cohan and London Contemporary Dance Theatre. Generations who today love Strictly Come Dancing and a raft of other dance shows – for which Bob essentially paved the way – would likely cherish the many great broadcasts he made, patiently longing for the light in the BBC archive.

Bob’s career began when he left school and headed straight to the BBC post room. He was briskly redeployed to assist Margaret Dale, his predecessor as BBC Director of Dance. Early on, he also assisted Sir John Drummond on a number of productions, including his groundbreaking Diaghilev documentary, and proceeded to become John’s partner in life for the rest of their years together.

Shortly after John died in 2006, Bob set out to establish the Drummond Fund in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society. Over fifteen years, it has fulfilled Bob and John’s passion of uniting choreographers and composers, giving them the means to create new work for the stage. Bob has remained an ardent chief advisor to the fund and annually we have cherished his keen eye and excitement for the applications. So much great music for dance has come to life thanks to this deed, and we are so pleased to continue the Fund in memory of both Bob and John together.

Bob was conferred an OBE for his outstanding commitment to music and dance in the 2021 New Year Honours List. Over the years, he was Chair of Dance UK, South East Dance, Performing Arts Lab, and companies like Lost Dog Dance, further illustrating the time and support he always gave so generously to upcoming practitioners.

Dance in the UK would look distinctly different had Bob not devoted his life to carving a place for it right in the public eye. Of course the dance goes on, and Bob Lockyer and his remarkable legacy will forever remain a sparkling part of it.