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30 April 2024

Professor Sally Marlow delivers her inaugural lecture, Never Too Late

On Tuesday 23 April 2024, Professor Marlow delivered her inaugural lecture as Associate Dean of Impact and Professor of Practice in Public Understanding of Mental Health Research at Bush House to a packed auditorium.

Professor Sally Marlow in front of a screen with the title of her talk Never Too Late

Professor Rachel Mills, Senior Vice President (Academic) at King’s College London opened the evening, highlighting the roles Professor Marlow plays within the IoPPN, and how her work stretches beyond.

Professor Marlow’s lecture emphasised that her journey to Professor at the IoPPN was not necessarily clear cut, and she touched on her school days, early passions and careers and struggles in young adulthood. Her career took her from the city of London to New York, where she worked for a juggling company, before a brief return to the United Kingdom followed by time in South Africa and Zambia. When she eventually returned to London with her young family, Professor Marlow spent time writing radio plays, finding herself coming in and out of the BBC at Bush House, where she now returns to deliver her inaugural lecture as Professor at King’s IoPPN.

Emphasising the theme of Never Too Late, Professor Marlow shared that she began her academic journey aged 39 at the Open University, before completing her master’s in Addiction and PhD at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. Within her lecture she paid tribute to many of the people who played key roles in inspiring and encouraging her throughout her early days at the IoPPN.

Professor Matthew Hotopf, Professor Sally Marlow, Professor Rachel Mills and Professor Sir Simon Wessely
Professor Matthew Hotopf, Professor Sally Marlow, Professor Rachel Mills and Professor Sir Simon Wessely

Professor Marlow turned her talents to making research around challenging and underrepresented topics accessible and engaging to the public, and has now broadcast over 20 documentaries on BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and the World Service. Her radio programmes include an exploration of ECT in the documentary Shocking, the link between heroin and jazz in Hitting the High Notes, and advance choice documents in Bound to the Mast. This strong relationship with the BBC led to her becoming the corporation’s first ever Researcher in Residence in 2022, based at Radio 3, a role which allowed her to explore how mental health and the arts interlink. Alongside her broadcasting, her academic experience includes a variety of high profile and remarkable opportunities including working with the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health, the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre and as part of the early planning stages of the Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People. An upcoming project is the launch of the Bethlem Live Lounge with the Bethlem Gallery, an exhibition where music and mental health meet.

Professor Sally Marlow giving her lecture Never Too Late
Professor Sally Marlow giving her lecture Never Too Late

I chose the title “Never Too Late” because it felt appropriate for my own career – I went back to university aged 39 and had my first radio commission aged 46. I essentially started both my academic and my broadcasting career two decades later than most people do. It hasn’t been easy, even with good support around me, but I wanted to demonstrate in my lecture what is possible in later life. It was incredibly moving to be able to share my trajectory into academia and broadcasting with family, friends, colleagues and the public. I was hoping to light a spark in people, especially those feeling stuck, and to embolden them to think differently.

Professor Sally Marlow, King’s IoPPN

In the conclusion of her lecture, Professor Marlow expressed her sincere thanks to the colleagues and friends who have been part of her journey, before sharing particular appreciation and affection for her family who have been by her side throughout. She touched on several other successful women who changed career later in life, further demonstrating the theme of never too late.

The evening concluded with the Vote of Thanks, led first by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, who commended Professor Marlow for her ability to juggle such a variety of projects at once, and finally by Professor Matthew Hotopf who applauded Professor Marlow’s ability to open important and accessible conversations around mental health on many platforms.

Following the event, a reception was held at Bush House, with music provided by London-based band Soothsayers. Professor Marlow’s interest in music and mental health has led her to working with Soothsayers over several years, to explore how music can be used to improve wellbeing in communities.

To view previous lectures and to find out about upcoming lectures in the Inaugural Lectures series, please visit Inaugural Lectures

In this story

Sally  Marlow

Professor of Practice in Public Understanding of Mental Health Research

Matthew Hotopf

Executive Dean, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience

Simon Wessely

Regius Professor of Psychiatry

Rachel A. Mills

Senior Vice President (Academic)