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October 2023 Lead On – The Show Must Go On

Our arts and cultural sector is traditionally hardworking, resilient, famed for conjuring joy and illusion from odds and ends. But that spirit and creativity is now being sorely tested.

Welcome to Lead On – the newsletter from Clore Leadership, which seeks to explore, stimulate and share perspectives on the issues currently impacting the leadership of culture.

Patience is a virtue, so the saying goes. And this month has seen significant swathes of the arts and cultural sector in England practicing that virtue with all their might! As the day for the Arts Council (ACE) announcement loomed, anticipation, expectation, hope and caution filled almost every conversation of those awaiting the outcomes. Emails from ACE, seeking to provide clarity and encourage preparedness, jolted the inbox, intensifying the moment… The week’s delay did not help! I guess we’ll learn in time whether it was an early indication of rough waters ahead, or the simple prudence at the start of a new Government. Time will tell.

The outcomes are now with us, and the stats clearly laid out. But it will take a wee while to fully grasp all the twists, turns and implications. Clore Leadership welcomes the opportunity to join the portfolio, and the funding that will enable us to continue investing in and supporting our cultural leaders to navigate what leaders need today, as we count the costs of living; and in the future, as we deal with an increasingly complicated world. How might we use our voices courageously?

Whilst many organisations are now breathing sighs of relief for the certainty and affirmation of funding, for others the dreaded outcomes have materialised – the aspiration of joining the National Portfolio has been denied; the ambitious programme that could have achieved new creative heights cannot be delivered on the resources now known… It is a time for reflection; a time for new thinking; for some, a time for tough decisions.

The circumstances of the recent Covid years made many dig deep, re-imagine their purpose, and kindle fresh relationships with audiences and communities. It worked. Is now the time for a second re-write? Might we re-visit those answers and set fresh perspectives for today’s differently challenging context? Can we muster (again) the energy and the courage to face the potential of a brutal future and determine our place in the creative ecology? Tough questions. Even tougher answers. No easy ways through…

For those facing the potential of ‘endings’, do sign up for our Tough Decisions webinar on Tuesday 22nd November, when our Governance Associate Keith Arrowsmith will walk through the critical issues and options for those navigating what may be an ‘end of the line’.

At Clore Leadership we will redouble our efforts to offer support to sector leaders. At the height of the pandemic, our Leading from a Difference series offered practical insights and perspectives on the challenges of the time. Browse through and find your support. We know several Clore Leadership cohorts convened for comfort and connection, and we encourage all to connect and share.

Don’t go it alone.

Hilary Carty, Executive Director, Clore Leadership

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