Fellowship Type, Sector based Fellowships, Industry Sector, Culture & Creative | September 2013
Cultural Creative Industries Fellowship: Baroness Hamwee
I had two reasons for my choice of sector. In my career as a solicitor I had acted for clients in several areas of the sector, particularly music and as a London politician I was well aware of the importance of the creative industries to London, and the UK’s, economy.
I firstly spent three days with the Royal Opera House and came away with my head reeling. I said to every organisation that I wanted to understand how it worked, not just enjoy the fluffy bits. What an extraordinary organisation. It reminded me a little of Parliament – what the public sees is such a small part. The scale is not only in numbers (technical staff and admin as well as chorus and orchestra) but in the longitudinal character of its planning (not so much for ballet, but years and years for opera).
My second organisation was the Royal Shakespeare Company where I concentrated on their impressive education programme. I have now seen several performances by young people within their programme; the 6 year-olds wafting their cloaks during Caesar’s assassination were entirely at home on the RSC’s stage. And I have been to performances by members of the Company for young people, and been impressed by their interaction with the audience during Q & As. Most impressive was the work for and in schools. The introduction to the RSC Shakespeare Toolkit for Teachers explains that at its heart is a belief in the power of Shakespeare’s work to inspire and engage children and young people of all abilities.
I also saw the extensive education and outreach programme at Chichester Festival Theatre and saw how they are integral to the work of all publicly funded arts organisations. This was good background for my day at the Arts Council where I sat in on a committee determining grant applications. I am particularly glad to have done that as one is often assailed by lobbying which suggests that decisions are made without proper care or understanding. That was certainly not the case with what I observed. This was no tick-box exercise; the members brought their own knowledge and experience plus a lot of homework to their thoughtful discussion.
The IPT suggested I went to Cambridge to learn about the University’s outreach and public engagement. I was treated to sessions with two professors and stimulating discussions about the importance of the arts and humanities in public engagement. I sat in on a brainstorming session on plans for the 2012 Festival of Ideas. Quite apart from the content, this and other festivals and events brought town and gown together in a way that was particularly striking to someone who was an undergraduate at a time when academia was much more exclusive.
My penultimate day, but a good wrap-up, was spent with BP, major sponsors of much cultural activity. After an introduction to the scope of their activity, I shadowed the Director of Arts Sponsorship to sponsored organisations such as the Royal Opera House and the British Museum. As well as the chance to talk in theory about the topic, I observed the way the relationships operate in practice – a combination of hard-headed reality, partnership and TLC.
I am privileged to have been given access to so many world-class organisations. I think I got a feel for the personality of each, but could not pretend to be able to analyse any of them. I do, believe, however, that I also got a little of a feel for the strains under which they operate, and some understanding of the depth of work not immediately apparent to the casual audience member / visitor.
The Company View
"The Royal Opera House is a committed participant in the IPT Fellowship Programme and enjoys every opportunity to extend detailed news and information of our work to parliamentarians who are seeking a searching peek beneath the underbelly of the organization. In Baroness Hamwee we met a probing mind keenly looking for those unturned stones to delve deeper in to what makes the ROH tick. We believe she left us with a richer and broader understanding of what we do here - complete with the challenges we face with on-going funding issues. Perhaps above all Baroness Hamwee recognized the importance of a key objective we strive to realize, and that is to keep our art forms relevant in today’s world. To meet such a rigorous, enthusiastic external ambassador for our work and reach is a refreshing lifeline and we are so grateful to her for spending time with us to get under our skin."
Hywel David, Corporate Relations Manager, Royal Opera House
“Baroness Hamwee really engaged with the process of decision making in Grants for the Arts during her stay with us, and I hope she found her cultural fellowship enlightening. I hope more MPs and Peers can find the time to experience how the arts and culture industry really works. The Arts Council finds it incredibly useful to show parliamentarians our ambition to support arts and culture, and the careful and detailed approach we take in assessing applications for our funding.”
Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council
Interested in hosting an MP or Peer for a day as part of an IPT Fellowship? We are always looking for new host organisations from across all of the UK. To find out more about how to get involved in an IPT Fellowship, please contact: