Bec Fearon, Head of Engagement at the Bluecoat, Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, reveals the people who have inspired her most throughout her career.
Tim, or Mr Chapman as I knew him then, was my music teacher throughout secondary school. An explosive character with a great sense of humour and an earth-shattering temper, he had an amazing way of making music relevant to virtually everyone using his unique teaching style and choice of repertoire. I’ll always remember our class of thirty 12-year-olds enthusiastically banging out the theme to Eastenders on glockenspiels in perfect synch. I was drawn in immediately and went on to spend an inordinate amount of time in the music department throughout my seven years at the school.
Mr Champan really put music on the map in our school, whilst our concerts and musical theatre productions built up a great reputation throughout the local community. It was as a result of his passion that music was clearly prioritised by the senior management team.
I often think of Mr Chapman when I hear about how the arts have been largely side-lined in the current education climate. My achievements as part of his vision were instrumental in my choice to stick to my guns and pursue a degree in Music at University, so I probably have him to thank for a fulfilling career in the arts. I hope the current situation doesn’t have the opposite effect on the arts leaders of the future.
My first job in the arts was working for the London Festival Orchestra as Education and Outreach Officer, based at the Warehouse near Waterloo, where Ian was General Manager. Although I only worked there for about nine months, Ian’s incredibly positive outlook made quite an impression on me. His open and good-humoured approach was effective in almost every situation – a good lesson to learn early on in my career and one I adopt daily in my community engagement role at the Bluecoat. It’s important to consistently maintain positive energy and humour at work, even in the most difficult times.
Susan was Director of Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre in Walton on Thames. When I started working in the area as an arts development manager for the R C Sherriff Rosebriars Trust in the late 90s, Susan had already led a committed group of local volunteers to transform a disused 18th century barn into a real gem of an arts centre. Situated in an idyllic spot by the Thames, Riverhouse could easily have pandered to more populist tastes, but Susan’s determination and drive brought challenging, contemporary work to the local audience. This included physical theatre, contemporary music and live art, for which she built a loyal and risk-taking audience.
I worked closely with Susan for five years at a formative stage in my own career. I learned a huge amount from her: how to engage and support volunteers; be a great host; work intelligently with partners; and balance strategy with delivery on limited resources whilst developing new audiences from unlikely sources – all of which are key elements to the success of the Bluecoat’s engagement programmes. Susan was always inclined to take a chance in the name of supporting high-quality, interesting new work and this nurturing approach has stayed with me throughout my time at the Bluecoat where it is a vital part of our work.
Bec Fearon is Head of Engagement at the Bluecoat, Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts.