George Fenton
George Fenton in 1969
Background information
Birth nameGeorge Richard Ian Howe
Born (1949-10-19) 19 October 1949 (age 72)
Bromley, Kent, England

George Fenton (born George Richard Ian Howe; 19 October 1949)[1] is an English composer. Best known for his work writing film scores and music for television, he has received five Academy Award nominations, several Ivor Novello, BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy and BMI Awards, and a Classic BRIT. He is one of 18 songwriters and composers to have been made a Fellow of the Ivors Academy (formally BASCA).

He has frequently collaborated with the directors Richard Attenborough, Nora Ephron, Alastair Fothergill, Stephen Frears, Nicholas Hytner, Ken Loach, Andy Tennant, Neil Jordan and Terry Gilliam.

Early life and career

George Fenton was born in 1949 in Bromley, Kent,[2] one of five siblings. He was educated at Carn Brea School and St Edwards School, Oxford. He began learning the guitar at the age of 8 and at St Edwards studied the organ with Peter Whitehouse.[3] He did not attend music college but continued to study with Pete Whitehouse and subsequently with the ethnomusicologist and composer, John Leach.

In 1968 he appeared in Alan Bennett's first West End play Forty Years On.[4][5] The following year he was offered a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama but had by then decided to continue with his music and had a record contract with MCA Records. For the next few years, he continued to work in theatre playing small parts and playing and writing music.


In 1974, Fenton received his first major commission, as composer and musical director for Peter Gill's theatre production of Twelfth Night by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.[6]

Throughout the rest of the 1970s and early 1980s, Fenton worked frequently as a composer for theatre productions.[7][8] He continued to collaborate regularly with Peter Gill (composing for 9 of his productions) and also worked in regional theatre as well as for the Royal Shakespeare Company and The National Theatre.

Other theatre includes The Judas Kiss, Last Cigarette, Untold Stories, Allelujah!, Mrs Henderson Presents, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Talking Heads,[9] Beat The Devil and Racing Demon.

In 1992, George Fenton was credited with the Sound Track to the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland, Paris.

Television drama

Fenton wrote his first television score in 1976.[10] This was a continuation of his collaboration with Peter Gill and it was for Gill's production of Hitting Town written by Stephen Poliakoff.

By the late 1970s, Fenton was working regularly in television. His television work has included LWT's Six Plays by Alan Bennett, Objects Of Affection, An Englishman Abroad, Talking Heads (2003), Bloody Kids, Going Gently, Walter, Saigon: Year of The Cat, Fox, Out, Telling Tales, The History Man (TV series), Shoestring (TV series), The Monocled Mutineer and the multi BAFTA winning The Jewel In The Crown.

Wildlife television documentaries

Fenton has composed for a number of notable wildlife television programmes, often collaborating with the wildlife broadcaster David Attenborough and the nature documentary filmmaker Alastair Fothergill. He started on the BBC's long-running series Wildlife on One and Natural World.

Since 1990, he has written the music for a number of wildlife series including The Trials of Life, Life in the Freezer, The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, and Frozen Planet. Other documentaries include Beyond The Clouds, Shanghai Vice and Between Clouds and Dreams (for Director Phil Agland).

In 2003, he composed and conducted the music for the feature documentary film, Deep Blue. It was performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra – the first film score the orchestra had recorded in its history. In 2007 they repeated the collaboration for the feature documentary film, Earth.

Television and radio themes

Fenton has composed the jingles or theme music to dozens of British television and radio programs,[6] including Shoestring, Bergerac, One O'Clock News, Six O'Clock News and Nine O'Clock News, Newsnight and Newsnight Review, On the Record, Omnibus, BBC Breakfast Time, BBC World News, Reporting Scotland, London Plus, Telly Addicts, Daily Politics, and BBC Radio 4's PM programme.[11]

Feature films

Fenton has written the music for over one hundred feature films.

His first major break came in 1982 [12] with Richard Attenborough's biopic Gandhi, for which he was nominated—with his collaborator, Ravi Shankar for the Academy Award for Original Music Score. Fenton wrote another four film scores for Attenborough's films: Cry Freedom, Shadowlands, In Love and War and Grey Owl.

He has also frequently worked with the theatre and film director Nicholas Hytner, writing the score for all six of the movies that Hytner has directed. These are The Madness of King George, The Crucible, The Object of My Affection, Center Stage, The History Boys and The Lady in the Van. The latter three of these allowed Fenton to collaborate again with their writer Alan Bennett. Although Fenton composed the original music of five of these films, for The Madness of King George he instead adapted and arranged the music of Handel.[13]

Fenton's long-standing collaboration with Stephen Frears has not been limited to television productions. Fenton has scored four of Frear's feature films: Dangerous Liaisons, Hero, Mary Reilly and Mrs Henderson Presents. He also worked with thr director Neil Jordan, scoring The Company of Wolves, High Spirits and We're No Angels.

Fenton has scored more feature films for Ken Loach than for any other filmmaker, by 2019, a total of 17. This started in 1994 with Ladybird, Ladybird followed by Land and Freedom, Carla's Song, My Name Is Joe, Bread and Roses, The Navigators, Sweet Sixteen, Ae Fond Kiss..., The Wind That Shakes the Barley which won the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, It's a Free World..., Looking for Eric, The Angels' Share, the documentary film The Spirit of '45, Jimmy's Hall, I, Daniel Blake and, most recently, Sorry We Missed You.

Fenton has developed other long-standing collaborations with filmmakers, scoring several films each for directors as diverse as Harold Ramis, Nora Ephron, Phil Joanou and Andy Tennant, including Multiplicity, Groundhog Day, Mixed Nuts, You've Got Mail, Final Analysis, The Fisher King, Heaven's Prisoners, Ever After: A Cinderella Story, Sweet Home Alabama (film), Anna and the King, Hitch, Bewitched and The Secret: Dare to Dream.


Fenton won an Ivor Novello Award, BAFTA and Emmy Award for Best Television Score for The Blue Planet and, in October 2002, he created "The Blue Planet in Concert" which was premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He subsequently created Planet Earth In Concert and Frozen Planet In Concert and took these concerts to venues such as Hollywood Bowl, Sydney Opera House, Wembley Arena and the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam.

In 2003, he scored and conducted the music for the documentary film Deep Blue, which was performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the first film score the orchestra had recorded in its history. In 2007, they repeated the collaboration for the documentary film, Earth. With the producer Jane Carter, Fenton turned each of the scores into concert works. His live film scores continue to be performed by orchestras worldwide.[14]



Year Title Director Studio(s) Notes
1971 Private Road Barney Platts-Mills
1977 A Lustful Lady Hal E. Woode Short film
1978 Me! I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf Stephen Frears Television film
1978 Doris and Doreen Stephen Frears Television film
1978 The Waterloo Bridge Handicap Ross Cramer Short film
1979 Afternoon Off Stephen Frears Television film
1980 Bloody Kids Stephen Frears
1980 Hussy Matthew Chapman First Run Features
1980 Rain on the Roof Alan Bridges Pennies From Heaven Ltd. Television film
1980 The Tumour Principle Arthur Ellis Short film
1980 Dead End Alan Birkinshaw Short film
1981 No Country for Old Men Tristram Powell Television film
1982 Gandhi Richard Attenborough Columbia Pictures
1982 Walter Stephen Frears Television film
1982 Parole Michael Tuchner Television film
1983 Walter and June Stephen Frears Television film
1983 Runners Charles Sturridge
1983 Saigon: Year of the Cat Stephen Frears Television film
1983 An Englishman Abroad John Schlesinger Television
1984 The Company of Wolves Neil Jordan ITC Entertainment
1985 Past Caring Richard Eyre Television
1986 Clockwise Christopher Morahan Universal Pictures
1987 84 Charing Cross Road David Jones Columbia Pictures
1987 Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire Alan Clarke ITC Entertainment
1987 Cry Freedom Richard Attenborough Universal Pictures
1987 White Mischief Michael Radford Columbia Pictures
1988 A Handful of Dust Charkes Sturridge New Line Cinema
1988 High Spirits Neil Jordan Palace Pictures
1988 Dangerous Liaisons Stephen Frears Warner Bros. Pictures
1988 The Dressmaker Jim O'Brien Euro American Pictures
1989 We're No Angels Neil Jordan Paramount Pictures
1990 Memphis Belle Michael Caton-Jones Warner Bros. Pictures
1990 The Long Walk Home Richard Pearce Miramax Films
1990 White Palace Luis Mandoki Universal Pictures
1991 The Fisher King Terry Gilliam TriStar Pictures
1992 Final Analysis Phil Joanou Warner Bros. Pictures
1992 Hero Stephen Frears Columbia Pictures
1993 Groundhog Day Harold Ramis Columbia Pictures
1993 Born Yesterday Luis Mandoki Hollywood Pictures
1993 Shadowlands Richard Attenborough Savoy Pictures
1994 China Moon John Mailey Orion Pictures
1994 Ladybird, Ladybird Ken Loach Samuel Goldwyn Company
1994 Mixed Nuts Nora Ephron TriStar Pictures
1995 Land and Freedom Ken Loach Gramercy Pictures
1996 Mary Reilly Stephen Frears TriStar Pictures
1996 Heaven's Prisoners Phil Joanou New Line Cinema
1996 Multiplicity Harold Ramis Columbia Pictures
1996 Carla's Song Ken Loach Universal Pictures
1996 The Crucible Nicholas Hytner 20th Century Fox
1996 In Love and War Richard Attenborough New Line Cinema
1997 The Woodlanders Phil Agland
1998 Dangerous Beauty Marshall Herskovitz Warner Bros. Pictures
20th Century Fox
1998 The Object of My Affection Nicholas Hytner 20th Century Fox
1998 My Name Is Joe Ken Loach Artisan Entertainment
1998 Ever After Andy Tennant 20th Century Fox
1998 Living Out Loud Richard LaGravenese New Line Cinema
1998 You've Got Mail Nora Ephron Warner Bros. Pictures
1999 Entropy Phil Joanou Warner Bros. Pictures
1999 Grey Owl Richard Attenborough 20th Century Fox
1999 Anna and the King Andy Tennant 20th Century Fox
2000 Bread and Roses Ken Loach Lionsgate
2000 Center Stage Nicholas Hytner Columbia Pictures
2000 Lucky Numbers Nora Ephron Paramount Pictures
2001 Summer Catch Mike Tollin Warner Bros. Pictures
2001 The Navigators Ken Loach
2002 Sweet Sixteen Ken Loach Icon Film Distribution
2002 Sweet Home Alabama Andy Tennant Touchstone Pictures
2003 Imagining Argentina Christopher Hampton Arenas Entertainment
2003 Deep Blue Alastair Fothergill
Andy Byatt
Miramax Films
2004 Ae Fond Kiss... Ken Loach Icon Film Distribution
2004 Stage Beauty Richard Eyre Lionsgate
2005 Hitch Andy Tennant Columbia Pictures
2005 Tickets Ermanno Olmi
Abbas Kiarostami
Ken Loach
2005 Valiant Gary Chapman Buena Vista Pictures
2005 Bewitched Nora Ephron Columbia Pictures
2005 Mrs Henderson Presents Stephen Frears Pathé
The Weinstein Company
2006 Last Holiday Wayne Wang Paramount Pictures
2006 The Wind That Shakes the Barley Ken Loach Pathé
IFC First Take
2006 The History Boys Nicholas Hytner Fox Searchlight Pictures
2007 Earth Alastair Fothergill
Mark Linfield
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
2007 It's a Free World... Ken Loach
2008 Fool's Gold Andy Tennant Warner Bros. Pictures
2009 Looking for Eric Ken Loach Icon Film Distribution
2010 The Bounty Hunter Andy Tennant Columbia Pictures
2011 One Life Michael Gunton
Martha Holmes
Magic Light Pictures
2012 The Angels' Share Ken Loach Entertainment One
2013 The Spirit of '45 Ken Loach
2013 Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight Stephen Frears HBO Films
2013 The Zero Theorem Terry Gilliam Stage 6 Films
2014 Bears Alastair Fothergill
Keith Scholey
2014 Jimmy's Hall Ken Loach Entertainment One
2015 Absolutely Anything Terry Jones Lionsgate
2015 The Lady in the Van Nicholas Hytner TriStar Pictures
2016 I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach eOne Films
2016 Wild Oats Andy Tennant The Weinstein Company
2017 Woman Walks Ahead Susanna White A24
DirecTV Cinema
2018 Red Joan Trevor Nunn Lionsgate
2019 Cold Pursuit Hans Petter Moland Summit Entertainment
2019 Sorry We Missed You Ken Loach
2020 The Secret: Dare to Dream Andy Tennant
2021 The Duke Roger Michell Pathé
Ingenious Media
Neon Films
Screen Yorkshire
2022 Allelujah Richard Eyre Pathé
Ingenious Media
BBC Films
DJ Films
Redstart Media

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

BAFTA Awards

Emmy Awards

Golden Globes

Grammy Awards

Ivor Novello Awards

Classical Brit Awards

EFA Awards (European Film Awards)

IFMCA Awards (Film Music Critics)

World Soundtrack Awards

BMI Awards

Other work

Fenton founded the Association of Professional Composers which later amalgamated with the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and with the Composers' Guild of Great Britain to become the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is a visiting professor at the Royal College of Music and the University of Nottingham.

In 2020, he and Simon Chamberlain released the album, The Piano Framed. Available digitally and on CD and vinyl, it has solo piano arrangements by Chamberlain of many of Fenton's scores including The Blue Planet, Dangerous Liaisons, The Lady in the Van and Groundhog Day.


  1. ^ "George Fenton Official Website Biography". Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  2. ^ "George Fenton official website biography". Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  3. ^ "St Edward's Oxford - Governors".
  4. ^ "Hymn". National Theatre. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  5. ^ "George Fenton, Desert Island Discs - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  6. ^ a b George Fenton, Desert Island Discs – BBC Radio 4, BBC, retrieved 16 December 2015
  7. ^ Recordings :: George Fenton, George Fenton Music, retrieved 18 December 2015
  8. ^ Eaton Music – George Fenton, Theatre Credits, Eaton Music, retrieved 18 December 2015
  9. ^ "Talking Heads Live". Bridge Theatre. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  10. ^ "Stephen Poliakoff on Hitting Town". Bleeding Cool. 6 September 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  11. ^ "How writing PM theme made composer 'very nervous'". BBC. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  12. ^ Film Scores, George Fenton Music, retrieved 15 December 2015
  13. ^ "The Madness of King George (1994)". IMDb. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  14. ^ "George Fenton official eebsite biography". George Fenton. Retrieved 1 October 2018.