"I think people are ace, and with the right conditions and support we can achieve anything together"
What do you do?
I’m a creative producer, artist, and arts professional, working in Leicester as Education and Outreach Officer for Attenborough Arts Centre.
I’ve been in this role for 10 years and I lead a team of exceptional arts professionals that develop person-centered projects, aiming to remove barriers to the arts. I work across the whole venue and programme at AAC, creatively and collaboratively exploring ways to engage people in our exhibitions, performance and outreach work, with distinct learning programmes tailored to the needs of each participant. Here’s 60 seconds of magic if you want to see us in action!
Key projects include
SENsory Atelier – a 4 year programme with 9 SEN schools in Leicester, where children and teachers collaborate with artists to unlock learning inspired the Reggio Emilia approach: https://unlockingtheworldblog.com/
Our Inclusive Youth Arts Programme, for children with complex needs and disabilities that runs out of schools time
a full gallery learning programme for families and schools, informed by our NextGen Creatives young ambassadors
research projects with colleagues across the University of Leicester,
I lead a course for 3rd year medical students at UofL, the Student Selected Component: Disability and the Arts.
I am also a trustee of Movers Theatre Company – a collective of brilliant neuro-diverse actors in Leicester, and company in residence at AAC. You can see some of their ace work here.
I’m also a hoop dancer and avid audiophile – and nothing makes me happier than playing, spinning or bouncing to music – anything beautifully crafted, with all the rhythms gives me goosebumps. I play a bunch of instruments (not at the same time… yet!) including the bodhran and guitar, and have started teaching myself the autoharp during lockdown (shamelessly channelling PJ Harvey at every opportunity ☺)!
How did you get to where you are?
I knew from early childhood that I had creative bones and wanted to work with people, so every step I have taken creatively and professionally has followed that path. I come from a big family too - both my parents were teachers and artists and were a massive inspiration to me.
I have worked professionally in the arts my whole adult life, building on early experiences in youth work to then study Fine Art Practice and Theory at university, which then led to arts development roles around the country.
In my twenties I began exploring cultural production, curating exhibitions and producing events for Createx – an artist development agency in Nottingham, where I took local artists work to Glasgow, and Gothenburg Sweden, as well as multiple shows around Nottingham. I worked with City Arts leading an artist development programme, which included more exhibitions and training opportunities, and I loved getting to know and support the practice of the regions amazing artists. I also worked at Creative Partnerships Nottingham – the cultural education agency for schools in the city.
As part of an arts collective, I co-founded the You Art Here Festival 2003 and 2004, an international contemporary arts festival in unusual spaces in Nottingham, which included turning an empty toy shop into a white cube gallery space; installing video works inside a 14th century church, and sweeping glitter into the cracks of pavements between locations. These experiences informed my understanding of professional practice and how art, time, environments and curation can work together to complete the dialogue between the artist, their work, and audiences – facilitating cultural experiences that help us make sense of ourselves, and the world around us.
I have a teaching qualification too which has been a great foundation for understanding how to differentiate the arts for individual learning styles / needs, and how to better support teachers.
I was Arts in the Community Officer for Borough of Poole for 6 years, responsible for co-producing projects with artists and communities to develop cultural engagement in the area. I ran Poole Street Arts Festival, and the Family Arts Festival for a number of years, and developed dedicated projects for families, young people, and those with complex needs and disabilities, as well as participatory public art projects, curating exhibitions and events, across all artforms. Whilst there, I also co-founded a charity called 2nd Birthday – a collaborative organisation that aimed to radically recycle derelict spaces into unexpected artistic encounters. It was a joyous adventure that I treasure as some of the most fun, and experimental creative producing I’ve done.
I moved back to the midlands in 2011, and began working at AAC, and in my other full time role raising my two beautiful kids.
Why do you love what you do?
I think people are ace, and with the right conditions and support we can achieve anything together – even the smallest interaction can be life changing. I learn so much through the experiences of others – the best thing ever, is when a group of 7 year olds tell me about their favourite artwork, or when a non-verbal student expresses something new for the first time – the world is an incredible place through the eyes of children.
I am passionate about the arts and culture as a human right - a fundamental element of our human experience – and one that can be nurtured throughout our entire lives. I believe it can comfort and help rebuild us in our darkest times.
I do what I do to open things up – the arts are for everyone – and with the right support, we can all grow through creative expression and activity. Venues, artists, cultural happenings are so important – can you imagine society without them!? No music, no design, no exhibitions - Art and culture is as essential to our species as clean air, and I know we will need them more than ever to recover from this challenging time.
Leicester is a phenomenal city - the most vibrant and diverse place I’ve been privileged to work. I love the people, the cultural industries and art sector here and have developed some amazing friendships, and partnerships with community and learning providers that have enabled us to try new things, experiment and embed great inclusive practice at AAC and in the community. Its plurality is its greatest strength and I’m looking forward to getting back to working with Leicester communities again soon.
Right now, its all about getting through the pandemic… we are gearing up for safely reopening our venue and programme once lockdown restrictions are eased. We have been in crisis management mode for a year now, and even though our building has been closed, we have been working flat out on new artist commissions, supporting the creation of new work, and online learning projects. We understand things have changed, and we will have to work differently, but I am excited by the creative opportunities before us…
I am looking forward to welcoming people back to our galleries and theatre, but understand there is a long way to go for us all to recover this difficult time of so much loss. I’m busy fundraising and working with our amazing team to put new things in place and ensure our work is as meaningful as possible to people in Leicester/shire and beyond.
Our first exhibition will open in the summer – by the incredible Mik Godley, and you can check out a lot of our new theatre commissions on our website.
See you there, Leicester!
Book: Art as Therapy by Alain De Botton
Music: Collapsed in Sunbeams by Arlo Parks
Film: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Julian Schnabel