Sara Pepper just landed her dream job as Director of Creative Economy at Cardiff University. She tells us what exactly she does and how she came to do it.
Director of Creative Economy, Cardiff University (2014)
I had already been working in the Business School at Cardiff University for five years (2009-14) when this new position was advertised. Whilst I had enjoyed my time on the project I had been working on and the opportunities it gave me to work across all industries in the private sector, I felt that it was the right time to re-connect more formally with the creative industries and take on a new challenge. I was very excited by the potential of the Creative Economy project – its ambitions and the energy behind it at Cardiff University. The project aims to undertake activity to enable a better understanding of the creative economy in Cardiff, to inspire, encourage and support working relationships across the city. It really was a dream job for me in terms of content, context and remit. It's not often that the opportunity arises to undertake a new role that connects with all of your interests and experiences in an inspiring organisation in the city that you love!
Peach Placement Recipient, Cultural Leadership Programme (2008-2009)
I was very fortunate to be offered one of only two ‘Peach’ Placement opportunities given in Wales by the Cultural Leadership Programme. This opportunity came at a perfect time in my own professional development. Throughout my career, I have made or taken opportunities to learn and develop wherever possible, and this particular one came in the form of a nine month placement with the then Chief Executive of Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), Judith Isherwood. I learnt so much during this placement, not only in relation to my research on the potential development of WMC’s cultural leadership role locally, nationally and internationally, but also in terms of understanding what leading an organisation entails. I was very fortunate to work with such an open and engaged leader and senior management team, who taught me so much about cultural leadership and the kind of manager and leader I aspire to be.
Producer, Southbank Centre (2007-2008)
I took up this post at the Southbank Centre towards the end of the re-development of the Royal Festival Hall. The team I joined was a new team, working under the leadership of Artistic Director Jude Kelly. We were responsible for producing a wide variety of in-house and bought-in productions, performances, installations, events and festivals across the extensive Southbank Centre site. It was an incredible experience to engage with such a wide variety of work across all art forms and in diverse spaces inside and outside of the buildings. It was a particularly intensive period of my working life due to the programme being incredibly ambitious and full during that initial opening period. As a result there are many highlights and unforgettable memories, most particularly the Royal Gala re-opening concert in Royal Festival Hall attended by the Queen.
Theatre Programmer, Wales Millennium Centre (2005-2007)
I joined the programming team at WMC about a year after the building opened. The construction and development of WMC had been of significant interest to me as a resident of Cardiff and also in relation to my interest in the cultural regeneration of towns and cities. I was responsible for the co-ordination and facilitation of the ongoing programme in the Donald Gordon Theatre (1,900 capacity), which comprised virtually all art forms. WMC's artistic vision was bold and the programming in the first year was ambitious given that Cardiff hadn't had a venue of this kind before. It was an unforgettable experience to be part of the team who worked on developing the artistic programme in those early days, as there was so much to do to get it up and running smoothly, particularly in terms of relationship building with artists and producers from the UK and across the world. It was the people who worked at WMC at this time that made my experience so memorable and to date this is probably the best leadership team and set of colleagues I have ever worked with.
Arts Programme Manager, University of Hull, Scarborough Campus (2002-2004)
In this role I was responsible for programming the venues at the School of Arts and also providing local liaison and support to the National Student Drama Festival. Both of these tasks allowed me to see first-hand the importance of learning and development with and for young and emerging artists and creatives. The festival and the courses at Scarborough offered the students opportunities to explore and push boundaries in the making and creating of work, and this is really important for the future of the creative industries and those working in them. I studied for a Masters in Theatre and Contemporary Performance Practice whilst working at Scarborough and was very grateful for the opportunity to continue my own learning and development. My dissertation focused on cultural regeneration initiatives in the UK and the part that stakeholders play within these. This study undoubtedly had a significant impact on later developments in my career and the path to my current job.
Sara Pepper is Director of Creative Economy at Cardiff University.