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With many of Britain?s cultural institutions appointing overseas directors and a widely reported crisis in cultural leadership, a new scheme is setting out to develop the next generation of cultural leaders. In the first of a new series of features on leadership, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith, explains the programme?s genesis and process and outlines how he hopes it will help Britain?s cultural sector.

I?m not sure if it was her experiences on the Board of the Royal Opera House, or watching the stately exercise of musical chairs as the Directors of most of the National Museums shuffled between institutions a few years ago, but in 2001, Dame Vivien Duffield identified a serious gap in leadership training within the cultural sector; and she was determined to help to do something about it. She commissioned an in-depth report from Robert Hewison and John Holden, from which the Clore Leadership Programme has emerged.

Our aim is to help develop a new generation of leaders for the cultural sector in the UK. And our first task in meeting this objective has been to establish a fellowship programme to give around twenty people a year an individually tailored, year-long opportunity to learn, develop and practise new skills, to reflect and research, and to realise their potential. We have been successful in obtaining funding ? from the Clore Duffield Foundation, from Arts Council England, Re:source, Youth Music and others ? for 24 fellowships for 2004-5; and we are currently inviting applications for these, with a closing date of February 20.

Harnessing potential

The fellowship programme is aimed at those with the potential to take on senior leadership positions within the next few years. I envisage that fellows will come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some may be people in senior positions already, near the top of cultural organisations and with an expectation of going further. Some may be running small cultural organisations with the ability to tackle something bigger. Some may be people, perhaps a bit younger, who are not yet as advanced in their career but who have already demonstrated exceptional ability and promise. Some may even have a track record outside the arts but with the passion and desire to move into the cultural sector. My hope is that as many people as possible will take the plunge and apply.

There are no restrictions on who can do so, except that for the funded fellowships they must be EU residents, and in all cases they must have had at least five years? experience of work or self-employment. Some of the fellowships on offer are of a general nature and can fit those from any background or career pattern. We aim to cover the entire field of culture, including all the performing and visual arts, museums and galleries, libraries and archives, heritage, and arts policy and administration. Others are specifically dedicated, including fellowships for those working in Northern Ireland, England?s North West, and the East Midlands; fellowships for those working in the field of music with young people; one for someone engaged in arts and health; and one in arts and education. We will seek a geographical spread of candidates and a range of people reflecting the diversity of our society and sector. The final selection will be completed by early May, and the programme for the first fellows will begin towards the end of September.

Tailored development

Each successful fellow will have a programme lasting between ten and twelve months, tailored to their particular strengths, weaknesses, aspirations and needs. It will include participation in two intensive residential leadership courses, one at the beginning of their year, one towards the end. It will include a period of three or four months? secondment to an organisation very different from the one they are currently working for (possibly abroad). It will include a period of two or three months? research and reflection, attached to a higher education institution, on a subject with practical relevance to their field of work. It will include a range of educational opportunities, to address areas of expertise they need to develop, alongside a series of lectures, seminars and workshops which we will lay on. And it will include having a mentor, a senior figure in their own field, to assist and guide them through the process. The emphasis throughout will be on practical examples and experience, rather than on theories or jargon.

We will offer two options to fellows. Some may want to take a sabbatical from their place of work, and we will offer them a scholarship of £20,000 for the year, and will cover their agreed tuition and research expenses. Others may want to continue at their place of work, being employed and paid by their current employer, spending some time during the year at their desk; they will, however, need to take very substantial periods of time out for their programme, and we will offer some modest compensation to their employer for losing them for this purpose. We will also, however, welcome self-funded applications, where a candidate covers their own living expenses during the programme (either themselves or through their employer), and makes a contribution of between £15,000 and £20,000 for their learning and other expenses.

Application

I would urge ArtsProfessional readers to consider applying, or encouraging others to do so. Of course we are going to have a real difficulty in choosing 24 people out of what I suspect will be a huge field of candidates, but I would rather have that problem than any other. And it will be an annual recurring programme, so lack of success in the first year shouldn?t discourage people from applying in subsequent years.

This is a unique programme, with no exact parallels anywhere in the world, and I believe it has a real chance to help to transform the standing, quality, strength and impact of our cultural sector. Let?s hope we can look back in a few years? time, and identify some genuine successes that have resulted.

Full details and application forms are available on the Clore Leadership Programme website.

The Right Honourable Chris Smith MP is Director of the Clore Leadership Programme.
e: info@cloreleadership.org;
w: http://www.cloreleadership.org

Chris Smith will be among the speakers at the Art of Leadership conference on February 24 at mac, Birmingham. t: 024 7622 7563;
w: http://www.theartofleadership.org.uk