How do you come to manage a community arts programme? Made in Corby’s Helen Willmott takes us through the steps of her career.
Programme Manager, Made in Corby (from May 2015)
Made in Corby is a Creative People & Places programme, funded by Arts Council England to increase opportunities for local people to experience high-quality arts activities, and led by a consortium of arts and community organisations. The Made in Corby programme concentrates on enabling local communities to decide where and how art happens in the town. I’ve been working with groups of local people to choose which projects we support, write artists’ briefs for our Community Commissions strand and choose our new musical, Danny Hero, which will be our major project for 2016.
Marketing & Project Manager, University of Northampton (2010 – 2015)
This was a varied role within the Commercial Services team. I joined the university to manage a programme of support for creative and cultural industries across Northamptonshire as well as the Portfolio Innovation Centre, the universities hub for creative businesses. With changes to internal structures and a drop in external funding, this role developed a ‘non-creative’ focus. I worked on branding and marketing across the university’s commercial activities, including catering and conferencing, and I launched its new innovation centre for social enterprises.
Assistant Producer, Dance4 (2008 – 2010)
I joined Dance4 to co-ordinate an artist development programme, but soon my role was widened to encompass producing projects across the artistic and learning programmes, including youth dance, working with the Associate Artists and nottdance, Dance4’s long-standing festival of experimental dance and performance. Dance4 is one of those great organisations that really knows how to nurture and support staff. It provided opportunities for me to develop skills in producing, programming and festival management. It’s also a really fun organisation, with plenty of dancing round the office and lots of tea and cake; it’s a time in my life I look back on with great fondness.
Project Co-ordinator, Northants Dance (2007 – 2008)
This fixed-term contract, to cover a colleague’s maternity leave, gave me a great opportunity to progress my career and get some much-valued project management experience in the dance development team for the county (which is sadly no longer in existence). Taking a short, fixed-term contract seemed risky at the time, but the skills and knowledge that I gained in this position, particularly in artist development and managing live events, were well worth it!
Admin & Finance Assistant, Arts Development Team at Northamptonshire County Council (2005 – 2007)
This was my first job after graduating with a BA (Hons) in Dance & Culture from the University of Surrey. Luckily, I had completed a three-month work placement in the team as part of my degree, so I already had a good understanding of their work, but the finance side of this position was completely new to me. Not only did I acquire an intimate knowledge of financial procedures but developed rigorous budgeting skills.
Alongside this part-time role, I worked as a freelance dance tutor delivering regular contemporary and street dance sessions with children and young people. Eventually I realised that being a practitioner wasn’t for me, but my time delivering this work really developed my organisational skills and gave me a thorough understanding of the life of freelancers which was invaluable during my subsequent roles.
Helen Willmott is Programme Manager for Made in Corby.