Current Picture and Next Steps: Supporting the Creative Sector Across the Highlands and Islands image
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Thursday 16th June 2022

Current Picture and Next Steps: Supporting the Creative Sector Across the Highlands and Islands

11:15am - 12:15pm

The Highlands and Islands boasts a unique and sophisticated creative and cultural infrastructure supported by a diversity of place-based networks, venues and organisations. This session brings together a range of perspectives to offer a lens on their importance to local communities, how they inform and shape broader national support programmes and discuss how they contribute to the sustainability and growth of regional creative economies. There will also be a focus on how digital is enabling new ways of working, shared challenges and opportunities, cross-sector collaboration, skills shortages, talent retention and the realities of working across often remote and complex geographies.


    Claire English
    Funding and Partnerships Manager, Wasps

    Claire grew up in Ross-shire, and moved back to the Highlands in 2021, after 20 years studying, living and working in other parts of the UK. Claire’s career in the arts started out in Middlesbrough in 2006 as part of an ERDF funded cultural regeneration programme. Her career since has focussed on culture, community and capital developments with a focus on place making. As fundraiser, project development manager and grant giver, she’s worked to support projects across the UK for a range of organisations including Citizens Theatre, Creative Lives (Voluntary Arts), The Postal Museum, Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homeless charity, and CRASH, the construction industry’s charity for the homeless and hospices.

    In 2018 Claire returned to the cultural sector and to Scotland, taking up the opportunity to work on a work on a significant capital and cultural development in her home region of the Highlands in a role with Wasps, Scotland’s national not-for-profit provider of creative workspace. As Funding and Partnerships Manager forWasps, Claire has recently led on fundraising for the second phase of Inverness Creative Academy, an overall £6m redevelopment which has brought the beautiful Midmills buildings back into use as the Highland’s first major creative hub. Claire strongly believes in the importance of placing culture at the heart of communities and vice versa, and is looking forward to chairing this important discussion at an exciting time of opportunity for the creative sector in the Highlands.

    Simon Hart

    For the past thirty years Simon has enjoyed a busy, successful and varied career in the arts. A graduate of the University of Glasgow, the Royal College of Music and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Simon has worked as a classical singer, actor, musical director and singing teacher with leading UK cultural institutions such as Scottish Opera, Dundee Rep, the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) and the universities of Queen Margaret, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Before joining Taigh Chearsabhagh, Simon was the artistic director of Puppet Animation Scotland, championing puppetry, visual theatre and animation nationally and internationally primarily through the organisation’s two national festivals, the MANIPULATE Festival and the Puppet Animation Festival.

    Graeme Howell

    Graeme Howell’s career has been diverse and included stints as a professional musician and as a debt collector, as well as directing the work of ten FE/HE creative industries education institutions and managing a £20million capital redevelopment of a Grade 2 listed concert hall. Graeme is currently the Chief Executive of Shetland Arts Development Agency which is a multi-venue multi-artform organisation that works across Shetland. Since moving to Shetland in 2014 Graeme has been a Trustee of a local Mental Health Charity, an advisor on the LEADER funding scheme and is currently a committee member for The Relay for Life and an independent director of the newly established Shetland UHI.

    Kathleen O’Neill
    Culture, Heritage & Arts Assembly, Argyll & Isles (CHARTS)

    Kathleen’s career path can be outlined by a series of linked themes, all including relationship brokerage and collaboration to forge new models of practice, and fundraising to turn collective ideas to action. From the late eighties Kathleen championed national progress for social inclusion in the arts, setting up Project Ability as an international agency working with vulnerable people and managing large teams of commissioned artists across the West of Scotland and overseas, contributing to Glasgow’s successful City of Culture bid. This led to her invitation in the nineties as a consultant curator to Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries, to design and deliver Art Machine ’95, commissioning national and international artists across disciplines to explore access and participation. Including national and international outreach programmes and residencies, this was cited as a model of European excellence in museum education to influence future development. In the noughties as Cultural Planner for Clackmannanshire Council, Kathleen led cultural regeneration in a community development context, initiating local, national and international partnerships and multiple arts commissions based on industrial heritage. Across her whole career Kathleen has developed many projects with national bodies and academic institutions.

    More recently Kathleen has helped embed two sector-led, membership guided charities, supporting and connecting practitioners and organisations and developing place-making initiatives. Kathleen was the lead consultant, for the set-up of Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of the Arts (DG Unlimited), and is currently Director of the rapidly growing network, the Culture, Heritage and Arts Assembly, Argyll and Isles (CHARTS), where she has worked since its inception in 2019.

    Kathleen is an artist, graduate of the Byam Shaw School of Art and has an MSc in Environment, Heritage and Policy.


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