Nicholas was born in London in 1944, and was educated at Highgate School in London. He then went to Cambridge and gained his degree in English Literature. He then married Margo Rouard in 1983, and had their son, Hector.
Nicholas has had a varied and lengthy career in the arts, having co-founded both London Sinfonietta and Ensemble Intercontemporain, been the Artistic Director and then Chief Executive of the Southbank Centre, the General Director of Glyndebourne and Opéra National du Rhin, Artistic Director of IRCM, Centre Pompidou, a member of the Venice Biennale music committee, Artistic Director of the Lille Festival and projects in Festival d’Automne, Paris. He was also a member of the Cultural Olympiad Board and of the Franco-British Council, and was a patron of the Royal Academy of Music.
At present, Nicholas is the Chairman of Wartski, a trustee of the V&A Foundation, member of various arts boards including Ensemble Intercontemporain (Vice-Chairman), Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras, Music Restored, Purbeck Chamber Music Festival and Development Board Hampstead Theatre, as well as the chairman of Aurora’s Fundraising Subcommittee. He is involved in charitable and sponsorship work concerning heritage projects, exhibitions and medical charities, including Motor Neurone Disease and Cancer.
His interests range from music to sport, including films, restaurants, Vienna in the early 20th century, spy novels, France and Arsenal. He has been honoured multiple times, including the Légion d’Honneur, Odre National du Mérite, Officier Arts et Lettres, Polish order of Cultural Merit and an OBE.