David and Philippa Seligman
Wealthy people find it easier to make financial donations, of course – yet nobody can buy more hours for their day. Which is why David and Philippa Seligman’s generosity with their time, as well as with their money, has been so remarkable.
Three different arts organisations spontaneously nominated them for the Prince of Wales Medal, and the warmth and admiration that the couple have inspired has been almost overwhelming. “The contribution to cultural life in Wales made by David and Philippa is quite exceptional,” says Lord Rowe-Beddoe, Life President of Wales Millennium Centre. “They are not only passionate about the arts, but are committed to spreading the benefits widely.”
“They have no airs and graces,” says Hilary Boulding, principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. “They roll their sleeves up and say, ‘What can we do to help?’” “David is an absolute gentleman,” adds Emyr Jenkins, chairman of Sherman Cymru. “He never raises his voice at all. And when I suggested he join the board as vice-chair, he said that he felt ‘very flattered to be asked’. That, to me, typified the modesty and self-effacing nature of the man – because it was us asking him for a favour.”
As one of Wales’s most eminent lawyers, and a distinguished family therapist, respectively, David and Philippa would have been entitled to consider themselves too busy for all this. And yet, looking at everything they accomplished in their years of tireless volunteering, it is hard to see how anyone could have done more to support opera and the performing arts in Wales. Certainly a list of all their contributions – or even just the bodies that they contributed to – would be so long that not even an opera lover could be expected to sit through it.
Highlights clearly must include a mention of St David’s Hall, Cardiff’s top concert venue, which David was a pivotal figure in creating in 1976 – and, of course, the Wales Milliennium Centre and Welsh National Opera, for which the couple were key supporters. But nor should these greater glories mask their simple enthusiasm for the arts. Despite his immense reputation, for instance, David remains an active committee member on the Royal Welsh College’s comparatively humble Friends scheme, as well as being a major donor to the college. Meanwhile Philippa has given up her time to train the Wales Millennium Centre’s development teams in negotiation – advising them, among other things, on how to get the most out of donors like herself.
Yet every recipient of the Seligmans’ generosity seems to agree on one point. Despite the huge breadth of their contributions, their unswerving dedication to high standards, and the visible benefits that they have helped to bring to Cardiff and Wales over the past 40 years, they have never let it change who they are. “They do what they do,” Boulding says, “because they are just genuinely decent, generous people.”