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Whether in policy development, advocacy or nurturing talent, Executive Director of Clore Leadership Hilary Carty’s career is born of a passion for arts and culture.

Marta Demartini

Looking back, my career seems far more logical in reverse than it felt going forward! I see now that the strands of people and organisational development settled in early, with my passion for arts and culture as the centralising pivot.

2017 – present: Clore Leadership Executive Director

At Clore Leadership I get the most illuminating window onto arts and culture across the UK, and indeed internationally, as each cohort of leaders shares their experiences, reflections and aspirations for the future. It’s impossible not to be inspired and energised - and it’s a great way to immerse oneself in the critical debates and challenges at the top of the agenda for cultural leaders and organisations.

Here, as in all my management roles, I am keenly aware that it is the team as a whole that makes the qualitative difference to outcomes and learning. Covid-19 challenges us to find fresh, innovative and strategic routes for support, and the opportunity to draw on the rich experiences of our team and trustees has, we hope, amplified that qualitative difference for an eclectic and diverse range of leaders.    

2011 – 2017: Co-creatives Consulting 

Co-creatives Consulting proved a great opportunity to challenge myself, exploring the full gamut of issues right at the coalface with sector professionals and organisations in the pursuit of change and development.  I loved the creative exhilaration of shared problem–defining, problem-exploring and solution-finding and doing this ‘with’ and not ‘for’ the clients, bringing genuine meaning to the ‘co’ of my ‘co-creatives’ company name.  

My approach was to bring as much of my experience and sector intelligence as I could muster to interrogate what was before us, framing these through insights and questions that would navigate the range of issues (both visible and hidden from view).  The results provided for rich learning and strategies grounded in integral practices and opportunities bespoke to each context.

Having started by accepting everything that came my way (quite unnerving being in the open market and not knowing from where or when your next contract will come!), I gradually settled around the avenues that brought me most joy – coaching and mentoring; organisational development; facilitation; and teaching. As a Visiting Professor at universities in Austria and Germany, the opportunity to explore issues of leadership from multi-European and international perspectives was invaluable.  

2006 – 2011: Director, Cultural Leadership Programme, ACE

Working as Director of the Cultural Leadership Programme was one of the most invigorating and creative roles I have held. The problem – how to enhance, embed and/or disseminate good leadership principles and practice across the cultural sector – no small challenge!  The response – we started with a situational analysis, mapping the status quo.  

The creativity came in devising the programmes to ‘nurture and develop world-class, dynamic and diverse leaders for the 21st century’ under the strands of: work-based learning, intensive learning, diversity, governance and online learning. ‘Dispersed’ leadership had to be lived and facilitated – with a brilliant but tiny team, commissioning, connecting and collaborating with as many organisations, sectors, geographical areas and diverse leaders as possible, was essential for impact and resonance. 

The legacy is real and tangible – in leaders, leadership voices and in several publications which sought to fill some of the data gaps on UK cultural leadership. 

2003 – 2005: Director, Culture and Education, London 2012 

Being embedded within the London 2012 bidding team as Director, Culture and Education, provided real depth and breadth of learning. The ‘campaign’ environment was exhilarating and emotional – ‘What good are highfaluting creative ideas if we don’t win the bid?’!  But how do you capture the heart of a sceptical nation without channelling big creative ambitions – not just for sport but for life, and for future generations? 

The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games created moments of national pride and engagement not previously witnessed by my generation.  And one legacy is indeed in the overt collective backing of our national teams as they compete at the highest levels and inspire us all with their tenacity, commitment and skills. 

1994 – 2011: Arts Council England 

That inspiration, of the skilled professional at work, has sustained me throughout my career.  As Director, London (Arts) and before that Director of Dance, it was a privilege to get up-close-and-personal in the studio or rehearsal room and observe the creative journey from imagination to production, and then witness the engagement of audiences with those ideas… a joy!  

So, I was reminded that my role, whether in policy development, financial resourcing, advocacy or talent nurturing, was part of the critical ecosystem that made creativity happen – a real spur to work with imagination and integrity, a long way behind the scenes.  Essential to keep in sight that the reward was indeed long-term and developmental – hence vitally important to be open, generous and thoughtful with decision-making.  For the smallest investments can make a big difference to the potential and the opportunities for change.

And that, I’m now reflecting, is part of the golden thread across my career ladder – tying together the opportunities and strands that hold the possibility to make a positive difference.

Hilary Carty is Executive Director of Clore Leadership. She was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours for services to Leadership Development in the Cultural and Creative Industries.
@HilaryCarty | @CloreLeadership 

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Photo of Hilary Carty