Obituary: Sir Richard Francis

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The Independent Online
THE OBITUARIES of Sir Richard Francis have tended, perhaps not unnaturally, to concentrate on his distinguished, varied and occasionally turbulent career at the BBC, somewhat to the neglect of his five years as Director-General of the British Council, a job for which his interest in world affairs, wide cultural sympathies and administrative talent made him eminently suitable, writes P. D. James (further to the obituary by Leonard Miall, 29 June).

The last five years have been particularly important for the council and, under Dick Francis's leadership and the Chairmanship of Sir David Orr, have seen a consolidation of its reputation both at home and abroad. Dick Francis realised that the independence and traditional values of the council were best safeguarded by clear direction, administrative efficiency and economic management. He initiated a series of corporate plans which were effective in establishing common objectives throughout the organisation and which played their part in justifying the council's case for the funding of new activity. He was strongly committed to the promotion of the English language and was enthusiastic for the representation abroad of the best of British art and literature, of which the 1989 'Britain in Europe' campaign was a part. In his words, 'This was the most powerful armada of British culture ever assembled for a single purpose.'

The collapse of Communism in eastern Europe has presented the council with fresh tasks: that the council is well placed to serve the new Europe on Britain's behalf is a tribute to Dick Francis's enthusiasm and leadership. It is a grief to all his friends both within and outside the council that he will not be with us to meet the challenges and opportunities of our rapidly changing world.