When, ten years ago, Dame Vivien Duffield, the arts philanthropist, had the idea for a new scheme for developing the arts leaders of the future it amounted to an instinctive belief, a shrewd guess, a punt on the future. Based on her decades of involvement in supporting and guiding major British arts institutions, her judgement was that the arts world overall needed to be better and more professionally led by people equipped with a range of skills over and above the particular specialisms of their art form. Yet more than enhanced skills were required in today’s complex and demanding environment. The good leaders of the future – operating at many different levels – would need qualities of character of a high order. These qualities included self-knowledge, bravery, imagination, selflessness and vision. Without these, why should any leader be followed?
The fellowship programme from its first definition by John Holden and Robert Hewison has observed some key principles. The programme is not an academic course; it has no modules, no set elements, no formal teaching, no final degree. Above all it is not a taught course; it is a learned course. Each Fellow determines what, how and how much they learn, they change, they absorb; ultimately each determines how much they change. Every Fellow accepts full responsibility for the impact the programme has on them, the impact they have on the arts in the future.
Over a decade, the principles, assumptions, theories and hopes expressed at the start have been amply fulfilled. Fellows reflect the cultural world at its broadest from archives and libraries to dancers and artists. Fellows come from all over the United Kingdom, all kinds of human, social and educational background, united in diversity. There is no formula for who makes a good Clore Fellow. There is no blueprint for selection. They lead in their own ways in different organisations in their own styles. What they share is having passed through a common experience. They are not a clique, a fraternity. What they understand, they share with others.
Ten years on, the need for stronger cultural leadership is still there; the demand to provide it is steady. So long as the Clore Fellowship Programme continues it will offer an experience that is open, humane, searching, undogmatic and devoted to the needs of an increasingly confident, professionalised arts leadership.