Shirley Thompson

Shirley Thompson OBE

Born: 7th January 1958

Birth Place: United Kingdom

Known for: Composer, artistic director, conductor and musician

Thompson was the first woman in Europe to have composed and conducted a symphony within the last forty years!

Thompson has composed extensively for television, film, theatre, dance, and opera and her music is performed and screened worldwide.

Thompson was awarded an OBE for her services and contributions to music in 2019.

Be tenacious and be gracious

Shirley Thompson OBE

Life story

Early Life


Dr. Shirley Thompson OBE was born in London to Jamaican parents. She enjoyed music from a very young age. She played the violin in youth symphony orchestras in London, and sang in local choirs in Newham. Thompson studied Musicology at the University of Liverpool, and studied composition at Goldsmiths College. She also was trained by Carlton Television and the BBC as a Television Programme Maker!




After university, she created pieces for concert halls, and she worked as a freelance composer for film and television. She created the Shirley Thompson Ensemble in 1994, and this produced a lot of her work. In 1998, a film that she directed was broadcast by the BBC — this film was called Memories in Mind, and the Arts Council later gave it an award.


After her debut as a Director, she began to focus on composing for the orchestra, and eventually composed pieces for major events which were performed at world-famous halls. Thompson completed an extraordinary  piece of work to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 called New Nation Rising. The orchestra was accompanied by two choirs, solo singers, a rapper and dhol (a double-sided barrel) drummers, a total of nearly 200 performers.


This symphony was so highly rated it was the inspiration for the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.


Thompson has also completed works for Barack Obama’s first 100 days as president, and the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush ship.


Dr. Shirley Thompson is now a Professor of Music at the University of Westminster.

She first started composing for fun when she was completing her A-Levels!

Note: This site is for optimised for Chrome, Edge and Firefox browsers only and some games are not compatible to all devices.

Keep exploring!