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Carien Meijer, Chief Executive of Drake Music, pays tribute to those who inspire her.

Michael Szpakowski

Michael is an artist, composer, writer and lecturer who works across various media: photography, painting, video, music and digital media. I first met him in 1998, when he was commissioned to compose the score for a participatory performance piece, ‘Eye Test’, which I produced. I have been lucky to work with Michael on numerous occasions since and on a wide range of cross-arts projects. I have always thoroughly enjoyed working with him – he is a brilliant and prolific artist, an inspired and inspiring teacher, a real thinker. We have also become good friends – he is incredibly generous and kind. Michael has a knack for getting the best out of people, creatively and musically. He is fiercely intelligent and always interested in pushing artistic boundaries and exploring different ways of working. Over the years, he has created a fascinating and constantly evolving body of work. I love his work and am inspired by it.

In 2008, when Drake Music went through a particularly tricky phase, Michael introduced me to Furtherfield’s Artistic Director Ruth Catlow, saying “I think you’ll get on”. This was the start of a really exciting partnership between Drake Music and Furtherfield which continues to this day.

Ruth Catlow

Ruth is the Co-Founder – together with Mark Garrett – and Artistic Director of Furtherfield, an online community for arts, technology and social change. Ruth and her team create online and physical spaces and places for people to come together to get involved with contemporary arts and digital technologies. Furtherfield has two spaces in Finsbury Park, in north London: Furtherfield Gallery, which hosts exhibitions and pop-up up events, and Furtherfield Commons, a technology and community space for discussions, workshops and informal residencies.

I am intrigued and fascinated by Ruth’s work at Furtherfield and love the ways in which she creates spaces for artists from all kinds of backgrounds and people from all walks of life to come together to make art and feel part of a community of makers. The work is often experimental, politically and socially engaged and artistically engaging.

After Michael Szpakowski introduced us in 2008, Ruth and I worked together on ‘Connecting across Difference’, a Drake Music commission bringing together children from Tower Hamlets schools and a team of musicians and artists to create a new piece of cross-art work. The piece was performed in 2009 at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.

Ruth is wonderful to work with. I have learned a lot from collaborating with her and with Furtherfield and, just as importantly, she makes me laugh. She has a great sense of humour, is open-minded and has an enquiring mind – never afraid to challenge mainstream art, views and perceptions.

Sofie Layton

Sofie is an artist and designer whose work includes small, intimate pieces as well as large-scale performance events and installations. Sofie creates site-sensitive art works with communities of many kinds (including terminally ill children and their families, school children and cultural organisations) that are sympathetic to the environment that they are devised for and the audiences that they are developed with.

I met Sofie in 1998 at Epping Forest Arts, where she worked part time as a community artist. Between 1998 and 2006 we worked together – Sofie as lead artist and I in a producing role – on a series of participatory, site-specific commissions.

Over the past decade or so, Sofie has increasingly focused on working with children, their families and staff in hospitals and other health care settings. She has developed a very distinct and – in my view – important body of work investigating and exploring illness, end of life, and bereavement. Sofie has just completed the R&D phase of ‘REST’ a collaboration with Graeae and Artsadmin and a group of bereaved parents. They explored the parents’ stories – tracing, marking and recording experiences and memories of their child using different artistic processes: story-telling, sound-recording, embroidery and textiles, photos and screen-printing, and sculpting. This process culminated in a beautiful, thought-provoking installation piece at Graeae in December 2014.

Sofie and I have become close friends over the years and I follow the development of her work closely. I admire her for being strong-minded, stubborn, yet gentle – I am inspired by her drive and her boundless creativity and imagination. I believe her artwork is not only beautiful and diverse, it is also necessary.

Judith Knight and Gill Lloyd

I am from Holland and in my early days in the UK one of the arts organisations I volunteered with was Artsadmin. I loved their work – and still do! In 1992/93 I applied for a job as Artist Manager and got it. Though I then only stayed for some two and a half years, being part of the AA team was a fantastic experience.

Artsadmin was then – and still is – run by Jude and Gill, the Co-Directors. We still keep in touch and they have also been extremely kind to me over the years. I admire them – they are both extraordinary women and excellent arts leaders. Their vision and passion for their work is wonderful to see and I’m sure has inspired many other arts leaders over the years. They love working with artists, have lots of common sense, and are great team builders. They are grounded, visionary, and make things happen. They are adept at creating excellent spaces, conditions and environments for artists to create new work and do it all with a wonderful sense of humour; all in my view great leadership qualities.

Mark Wallinger

Though my work is primarily in music these days, I love all art forms and try to make time to see and experience performances, events and so on. I call it ‘food for the soul’ – something I can’t do without. I saw ‘Threshold to the Kingdom’, a video piece by Mark Wallinger, at Tate Britain a couple of years ago and it really ‘spoke’ to me. It is a video shot at City Airport’s international arrivals featuring passengers coming through the sliding doors, walking towards us, towards the camera. People seem lost in their own worlds, oblivious to the presence of a camera. It is shown in slow motion accompanied by a soundtrack of Allegri’s Miserere and is heart-stoppingly beautiful. I was very moved by it and I still often think of the impact seeing the work had on me. It is beautiful and reminds me of the transience of life. I think the ‘best’ art stays with you in this way and keeps affecting you. It is for that reason I have added Mark Wallinger and this work to my list.

Carien Meijer is Chief Executive of Drake Music.

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Photo of Carien Meijer