Jenny Harris, a freelance creative producer, describes her career in music and arts festivals.
Director, Halifax Festival (January 20114 – present)
I've been in this post for around six weeks now. I really wanted to work within a venue again and Square Chapel, from which the Festival is run, has an interesting and adventurous programme. I really enjoy programming and running festivals, particularly ones with a strong commissioning policy at their heart. The Calder Valley is brim-full of creative people and amazing spaces, and festivals like Halifax are really important platforms for connecting local communities and creating a narrative for the area.
Freelance Producer (November 2007 – present)
I took the plunge to go freelance when I had my first child and have not looked back! I've been really lucky in that I've been very busy and worked on some amazing projects, including imove, Yorkshire's Cultural Olympiad programme, Phrased & Confused, a spoken word project, and a range of green-field and city-based festivals. I'm currently producing an outdoor touring theatre show called ‘Bike Story’ for 509 Arts as part of the Yorkshire Festival 2014 and am part of the producer team that is thehubuk.com. Working on festivals can be intense but you can plan to accommodate this and enjoy the quiet times. (I also have a very understanding partner!)
Senior Music Officer, Leeds Town Hall (2000 – 2007)
Leeds has a very strong music programme, delivered by the Local Authority. My role at Leeds Town Hall was to market the season, which included everything from European orchestras to bands in the parks, and to programme chamber music, jazz and brass bands. I learned an enormous amount about promoting and programming here, and was fortunate enough to be part of the team that developed FuseLeeds, a city-wide cross-genre music festival. It was a baptism of fire, but we gave Jonny Greenwood his first orchestral commission and worked with some absolutely amazing musicians and sound artists.
Co-ordinator, Pyramid of Arts (1998 – 2000)
This was my first 'proper' job and was a wonderful, if rollercoaster, experience. Pyramid is a Leeds-based arts charity that works with people with severe learning disabilities and complex needs. It does really important work but like many small charities is constantly on the financial brink. I think everyone should work at the coalface that is a tiny charity at some point – it's certainly one way to get good at asking for money! Alongside fundraising and commissioning artists, it was at Pyramid that I developed a real understanding of inclusive arts practice and the technical skills needed to make art on a large scale.
Freelance Musician (1992 – 1998)
I did a music degree at Goldsmiths' College but really wanted to form a band when I left. We had some suitably rock and roll adventures on the toilet circuit and made an album with Fierce Panda, but made absolutely no money! To make ends meet I did anything and everything from jazz residencies at restaurants to guitar tuition. The really invaluable thing I learned was what it is like to be a touring artist, how you hope to be treated by venues and promoters, and how infrequently this happens at a most basic level. This experience has guided my entire approach to producing and promoting since.