Welcome to Hello World’s interview series showcasing the work of individuals and organisations that are championing education and helping marginalised communities to shape their own future.
Robin Millar CBE, MA, FAPRS
An internationally renowned British music producer, businessman and mentor to FTSE business leaders, Robin Millar is also one of the three most successful blind musicians in the world. A pioneer of digital technology, he produced and arranged ‘Diamond Life’ by Sade, the first all-digital UK top ten record. He is Executive Chairman of Blue Raincoat Chrysalis Group, one of the UK’s best known independent music companies.
Since 2017 Robin has been the Director of The Institute for Apprenticeships. He is an Honorary Professor of Commercial Music at the London College of Music, Global Ambassador for Leonard Cheshire Disability, Patron of CALM UK and Honorary Patron of The Music Producers’ Guild. He is a former trustee of Creative & Cultural Skills UK and was made a CBE in 2010.
If you could write on your own school report, what comments would you make?
Robin is a bright, friendly, talkative boy with a keen interest in art, music and drama. He plays an active part in school productions and concerts and has started several societies.
He can be a distraction to others in class and does not always choose the best moment for levity.
He is very keen on sports and has represented the school at national level. He loves soccer and cricket but his poor eyesight lets him down. He is practical and so is now the official school cricket scorer.
He is sometimes bullied and though he does not often start confrontations he tends to respond aggressively. We have channelled this and encouraged Robin to join the Galahad boxing club which he seems to enjoy, although he rarely wins contests. Again his poor eyesight is a hindrance but he seems determined to continue.
Robin is popular with the girls at school and he has a tendency to show off when in mixed groups.
Robin is an A student and we expect him to gain entrance to a good university. He will find university life challenging and we hope he will learn to ask for assistance more. We see this obstinate self reliance as a potential weakness.
What did you dream of becoming as a child and what obstacles got in your way?
As a child I wanted to be Green Lantern and have super powers, then Batman, then Spider Man, then James Bond.
As a teenager I wanted to be a sports star but my bad eyesight and the total lack of inclusive sports made this very difficult.
I wanted to be a classical musician but by the time I was 17 I could not sight read well enough in dark concert conditions and there was no technology to help.
At college I struggled with law books which were not always available in braille or large print. I was not offered support at all.
When I left college I tried for 35 jobs and despite having a first class honours degree I only got one interview. Looking back I now realise it was because of my poor eyesight but no one told me.
I did get one job and held it down for a year but, with no support or technology to help. I struggled with the paperwork and gave up. I tried to get a job in a recording studio, with the same result. Eventually I went to France where I was offered a job as an apprentice engineer by a very enlightened proprietor.
By this time, I wanted to make a lot of money, be very cool, be a rock star, have lots of Italian cars and Italian girlfriends.
I got all this by the time I was thirty.
I then wanted to start my own business. I spent a year looking for finance but I was turned down by every recognised financial organisation because of my disability.
When I did eventually start my own company I immediately took on an apprentice from a young offenders unit and another with learning difficulties. They both stayed with me for over 7 years. I also started using the company to provide resources for charities working to end oppression, protect the vulnerable and look for tech solutions to obstacles.
When I was 40 I went back to college to study advanced computer sciences and programming and from there went on to design a complete recording studio I could use without sighted assistance.
Since then I have rolled out this technology in Africa, Asia and Europe, mostly teaching it one to one and providing the equipment.
You are a champion of accessibility into the Creative Industries for all young people, regardless of their economic background -what lessons has this work taught you?
It’s taught me that,
1] there are a lot of people who would regard themselves as compassionate and enlightened who will not make any adjustments to their working preferences to include all people.
2] when you do empower someone they will reward you.