Rachael Griffin tells us who has inspired her most.
I started my career at Birmingham Hippodrome and learnt a lot from observing Stuart as he took the organisation through a vast period of change. His quiet leadership style filled with passion, humility and humour coupled with a shrewd business approach was a revelation. Stuart placed value in creating strong strategic partnerships across Birmingham as a cultural city and within the building itself with resident organisations DanceXchange and Birmingham Royal Ballet. I saw a venue emerge from the tail end of a large capital build to a thriving and dynamic hub which captured the hearts and minds of theatre-goers all across the West Midlands. I also saw how Stuart transformed the programme to grow audiences for contemporary international dance, and it provided me with inspirational lessons in change management and audience development.
I met Wanjiku when I first joined Arts Council England. I was an Assistant Officer and she was the West Midlands Dance Officer. Wanjiku has had a vast career spanning economics, the arts and more recently as a psychologist. Her approach to her work is meticulous, fearless and committed, and she has an infectious passion for learning and expanding her mind. Her breadth of perspective is refreshing and invigorating. She invested in me as a person and her passion for all forms of dance took me on a new voyage of discovery, from Butoh to Contemporary to Bharatanatyam. She taught me never to say never and always look for new opportunities and to ask for them. The worst anyone can say is no, after all.
Andrea is currently the Operations Director at Warwick Arts Centre. I met Andrea when I was the link Officer for Warwick Arts Centre during my time with Arts Council England. Andrea is unflappable, courageous and steadfast, has a great attention to detail and is an incredible strategic thinker. Watching her manage a busy venue – the logistics, the relationships, the departments and the sheer timetable of a multi-arts venue was mind-blowing. It made me reflect on my own working practices and approach. Above all I saw the sheer amount of hard work that goes into a multi-faceted role like Andrea’s, a great lesson now I am in a similar broad management role here at the helm of Pentabus.
I met Sue about eight years ago when I was very new to rural touring. I met her on a wet and windy day in Worcestershire when I had requested a meeting so I could learn what rural touring was all about. Sue at that time was programming over four different rural touring schemes, which is no mean feat! She spoke confidently and passionately about rural touring, about not dumbing down to rural audiences, about quality being the most important thing, and about trust. As I began to see more and more shows on rural tours I understood the impact live performances had on a small community and some of my most memorable experiences as an audience member have been in tiny venues on the edge of a village where you need a torch to find your car again at the end of the evening! In particular I remember Sue encouraging me to see White Open Spaces by Pentabus around six years ago. This ground breaking piece about racism in the countryside stood out amongst everything else I saw that year. I have no doubt this early interaction with Sue, and working with her over a number of years, led me directly to Pentabus some years later, where our mission is to produce original contemporary plays about the rural world for local and national audiences.
He won’t be known to any of you, but this man is a true inspiration – my father, a Managing Director of a small/medium-size fixings firm in the Black Country. With no qualifications and after dropping out of school at 16, my father has carved out a successful career, firstly as a salesman with the gift of the gab and secondly as a Managing Director of a business which has lasted nearly 30 years, riding the crest of the wave of not one but three recessions. My father is a business man through and through, and I think we in the arts need to think more and more about our organisations as businesses. After all, we are the guardians of public money. It should be prudently spent without unnecessary wastage. You should understand and monitor your financial position. You need strong HR and resources management and there should be money in the bank to ride out the storms. But then you never did get ahead in business without taking calculated risks. You often need to make brave and difficult decisions to survive, but also be willing to evolve and reflect. My dad has taught me the need to invest and believe in the quality of your product, seek out new opportunities and partnerships and nurture your relationships with clients. Sounds like a recipe for success to me.