HOW WE MET

JOHN TUSA AND SIR JOHN DRUMMOND
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The Independent Culture
Broadcaster John Tusa, 63, is managing director of the Barbican Centre. Born in Czechoslovakia and educated at Cambridge, he joined the BBC in 1960. He was managing director of the BBC World Service from 1988- 93. He lives in London with his wife, historian Ann Tusa, and has two sons.

Sir John Drummond, 64, joined the BBC in 1958. A former controller of Radio 3 (1987-92) and director of the BBC Proms (1992-95), he was also director of the Edinburgh Festival (1977-83). His book, Speaking of Diaghilev, is published by Faber next year. He lives alone in Kensington

John Tusa Drummond was a year ahead of me at Cambridge. He was always a very striking, commanding man - not just because of his height. He was someone who attracted people around him and always gave excellent parties. In those days, as a fairly impoverished student, he had rather a gaunt, hungry look, which has long since disappeared. We were both historians, which was obviously a shared interest, but our friendship developed because of Drummond's personality. He was, and still is, a very clever, entertaining, well informed and extremely funny man. There's a life force and energy about him which is hugely attractive. In his last couple of years at Cambridge, we spent a lot of time together.

My plans of what I ultimately wanted to do were very vague, so I decided to apply to the BBC as a General Trainee, because Drummond was already there and it seemed like a good idea. Later on, it was frustrating when he didn't get some of the Head of Department jobs which he really ought to have got. Many people see Drummond as difficult, opinionated and abrasive - which indeed he is - but those are the only things they're prepared to see. There is very much more to Drummond than that. Above all, he is wonderfully intolerant about the right things. He can't bear low standards or people that are not serious about the things he considers deeply serious. Those attitudes don't readily endear you to colleagues, but many of those who have worked with him adored him for those high standards. Working with Drummond is a four dimensional experience in glorious Technicolor. Not everyone can cope with that intensity.

Unusually, the two of us were recently in the studio together, broadcasting Radio 3 for an entire weekend, first from Berlin and then from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. It had been Drummond's idea, and working so closely together seemed absolutely natural to us both.

Ann and I have shared many holidays with Drummond. On holiday, he's more super-charged than usual - particularly if he's taking us somewhere which is new to us. Recently, we had a long weekend in Tuscany, which he knows well. He took us on conducted tours to his favourite churches and restaurants. He's hugely generous like that - always wanting to share places with friends. Drummond's curiosity about the world is very impressive, but it's hardly relaxing. His relaxation is to play the piano, which is something entirely private and personal in his life. He's also an excellent cook.

The Edinburgh Festival was a much more exhilarating place for us once Drummond was running it. We always went up for a week and, on top of the three or four things we saw each day, he would also give some kind of party most evenings. Frankly, at the end of it, we were almost reduced to shreds. Drummond has enormous stamina, but I'm not sure how even he survived.

We've been friends for more than 40 years and I'd totally trust him with a real confidence. Drummond is almost one of the family. If he's around at Christmas, we always do something together. Naturally, with such an enduring friendship, at times, I've seen him wretched, but he usually lets me know what he's wretched about, and we argue it through.

As far as our various career moves are concerned, we might say to each other, "I think you should be doing less of this and more of that." He's warned me of a number of things, saying, "For God's sake, you don't want to get involved in that." I admire Drummond's intolerance for the second rate and the way he stands up and says what he thinks - the way he campaigns for the arts, for Radio 3 and for orchestras. He's never been afraid of putting himself on the line, I don't believe that he would particularly like another big administrative job but, for what he represents in the arts, he really ought to be used in some national way - to give a lead. Because of his position, people will listen to what he says. I'm jolly glad I met Drummond when I did. Life wouldn't have been half as much fun without him.

JOHN DRUMMOND: When one is called John, people usually find other ways around your name. John Tusa was known as Johnny, I was Drummond and John Tydeman, another member of our Cambridge gang, who later became head of drama at BBC Radio, was known as Tyde or Tydey.

I have a very clear picture of meeting Johnny at Cambridge. In those days, he had lots of fair hair and looked terribly sporty in his squash shorts, carrying his racket. Johnny's still keen on squash, which is something I don't share. It's one of two no-go areas between us. The other is ballet, which is one of my great passions. Johnny's never been able to understand why I care so much about it.

What began as a fairly casual friendship was firmly cemented when I was invited down to his parents' holiday home in Dorset and met his family. I can't recall a time since then when we haven't been extremely close. Ours is a friendship where, even if we don't see each other for some time, we always make time for long phone conversations. We share problems. He gives me a hearing and is supportive. Equally, if Johnny is writing something controversial, there's a certain amount of discussion between us beforehand, which I find very flattering from someone who is so competent. When we discuss the losses and gains of our various campaigns, we can still manage to laugh at ourselves and the world.

Johnny has done an enormous amount for this country, but what matters to us both is that what we do is done on behalf of others. We have been lucky enough to have had a marvellous education, and interesting jobs where we have met extraordinary people, but neither of us has ever made any great amount of money. There has never been a personal motive for doing those jobs. Johnny has absolutely no vanity, which isn't common in today's society.

Another thing Johnny and I have in common is that neither of us is blood English - I'm half Australian, half Scottish and Johnny was born in Czechoslovakia - so we continually question values. Thirty or 40 years ago, people in public life concerned with policy making were mostly civilised men of culture. Nowadays, the House of Commons is mostly made up of suburban non-entities. Bush House, home of the World Service, where Johnny spent six years, was always a place were culture was taken seriously.

Ann, a beautiful historian from Newnham, was also part of our Cambridge gang, and Johnny was the lucky one who married her. I'm equal friends with both of them. If Johnny's away, I'll have dinner or go to the theatre with Ann. When I took on the responsibility of becoming godfather to their younger son, Francis, Ann wrote me a most marvellous letter, explaining that it was not so much the catechism she was concerned about, but perhaps I could take him to see his first Swan Lake and introduce him to his first gin and tonic.

In our 40 years of friendship, Johnny and I have led fairly parallel lives, but haven't actually worked together much. Both of us love radio. When we did our Radio 3 broadcasts from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, it felt so natural for the two of us to be in the studio. Johnny's such a total professional, he made the programmes work. The collaboration was huge fun, and it also gave us an opportunity to gossip each time we had to take a break in the broadcast, so that the local American radio station could make their various commercial sponsorship announcements.

Although he's worked largely in the political domain and I've been in arts, I wasn't the least bit surprised when Johnny became Managing Director of the Barbican. He seems much calmer these days. Obviously, there have been all kinds of problems, but he takes them in his stride and is a superb administrator.

The cultural lives of the Tusas are quite daunting. They always seem to have seen the latest play or read the latest book and been to a concert at the Wigmore Hall, where he is a member of the Board. We share a great admiration for the writer VS Naipaul, but they would be the ones who would have got the book first and read it. Although Johnny's not as keen on big orchestral concerts, music is important in his life. When the Tusas entertain, there will invariably be chamber music to listen to with our coffee. They are the friends I am most delighted to run into if I go to a performance in London. I don't think our relationship has changed in 40 years, but for me, it's become far more important. !

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