Clore Leadership Programme
Clore Leadership Programme

The time is now: Clore brings Sunderland's cultural leaders together ahead of City of Culture Bid

Clore Fellow Keith Merrin reflects on Clore's Leadership Development Day at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland

Keith Merrin
Keith Merrin

Participants of the Leadership Development Day enjoy a demonstration of traditional glass making techniques at the National Glass Centre

In only the second week of my new role as Director of the National Glass Centre I was delighted to be playing host to a Clore Leadership Development Day in Sunderland. I was slightly less delighted when I was handed the job of summing up the combined thoughts of 40 inspirational people over an entire day into 10 minutes at the end. Hopefully it still makes sense as you read it now...

The day was organised by Clore Fellows Rebecca Ball and Marie Nixon, both now playing pivotal roles in the cultural reawakening that is happening in Sunderland and exemplified by the ambitious bid to have the City recognised as UK City of Culture in 2021. In the room we had artists and organisations ranging from chart-topping musicians to the Church of England all united by a desire to play a leadership role in this work.

The scene for the day was set by local business leader and driving force behind some of the major new cultural developments in the City, Paul Callaghan. Paul’s passion and enthusiasm for Sunderland is matched by his clear articulation of the benefits that the City can gain from developing its cultural infrastructure. Clore Leadership Programme’s Sue Hoyle helped us to think about our personal  role in making the changes that we want to see happen and Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the South Bank Centre, exhorted us to action with an inspirational set of examples from around the world.

This in turn inspired a series of conversations in the room and ultimately my summary of the day in 13 points which kind of acts as a manifesto for us as leaders as we bid for Sunderland to be UK City of Culture:

1. The time is now – we have a moment of opportunity

2. We are the change makers.  Someone has to do something and it looks like it’s us! 

3. Creativity is natural and for everyone. Break down the barriers and change mindsets 

4. It is our responsibility to give our communities and particularly our young people the best of everything 

5. There is no hierarchy in art 

6. We can tip the arts pyramid on its head 

7. We must create and own the narrative of our City and our culture 

8. Look to our ancestors, those who came before. They were makers, innovators and risk takers 

9. Be authentic to our values but flexible to recalibrate direction 

10. Use scepticism for inspiration - we must go to the barricades and defend the right for communities in Sunderland to have the best arts and culture 

11. It is tiring to persuade people - it requires doggedness, determination, drive, tenacity and personal resilience 

12. Trust each other 

13. Allow ourselves to commit and fall in love (with the idea of being City of Culture) even at the risk of being hurt

See you in Sunderland soon!


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