TOM LINGWOOD was born in Guildford, Surrey. He went to school, and later Art school, in Guildford where he began to study design. After Art school, he joined Sadlers Wells as an unpaid scene painter and fed himself by working as an actor. At 22 he began designing for the Mercury Theatre and the London Festival Ballet and in 1954 established an international reputation with his designs for "Palisades" for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, in London "Symphony for Fun" for London Festival Ballet, "Movimentos" for Ballet Rambert, "Lilac Garden" for the Royal Ballet and also at the , for Ballet de Lage Landen in Holland.
In the following years his work was seen in Montreal "Giselle" and "Graduation Ball" for the Royal Swedish Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opera Ballet, Ballet de Geneve and the Royal Danish Ballet. By the time he came to Australia in 1970, he was an established figure of the English theatre scene with a string of West End successes to his name. In the musical field he provided splendid sets and costumes for Julian Slade's "Vanity Fair". Until then he had designed only one opera, "Manon Lescaut" for the Royal Opera Covent Garden in London.