Resources Article

Once you start to adapt the environment of leadership, you will see leadership radically transform

We caught up with Daisy Hale, independent producer and Creative Director who is also an Emerging Leaders alum and was appointed to our Board of Trustees in April 2022. Here they talk to us about their cultural sector journey through the queer lens and their experience of coming up through the club and cabaret scene. 

Great to chat to you Daisy, let’s start with how you first got involved with Clore Leadership and where has this led you to in the present day?

I did my first Clore Leadership course (Emerging Leaders) not that long ago in February 2020, literally a couple of weeks before the whole country shut down and it was a really lovely, lovely cohort, I had a great time and I’ve stayed friends with most of them since.

And then after doing that CL kept in touch and asked me to facilitate some of the Small Group Conversations and some of the Think-In events. I was also on the first Inclusive Cultures programme, and as of April this year I have just been appointed to Clore Leadership’s Board of Trustees.  

I also facilitated on the Emerging Leaders March 2022 course and to be back in the room only 2 years later felt really surreal but nice; it was lovely to be asked back and to feel like what I had to share was useful – a full circle moment.

Tell us a bit about your own personal experiences within the cultural sector as a member of the LGBTQ+ community

My journey into the cultural sector comes from a queer lense, I came up through the club and cabaret scene. Around eight years ago, I moved to London and was very quickly introduced to the cabaret scene and the club scene, where I met some really amazing artists.

In 2016 I went to Edinburgh as part of the British Council Emerging Producers Scheme that they used to run. It was a great year for queer cabaret, a friend of mine was running Polyanna, so I got to sit backstage and meet some incredible artists. I came back to London that summer with this newfound interest and then I met Pecs Drag Kings, who were looking for a Producer and over a pint and we decided to work together. Around the same time, I met cultural queer figures around London like Jonny Woo and John Sizzle, so together with Pecs, this was a perfect serendipitous moment– bringing together my first show with Pecs at The Glory.  

We did our first Pecs show in a theatre space together at Soho Theatre in 2017 and the company turn 10 next year, so we are getting ready to celebrate a big anniversary.

For me, coming up through that grassroots, queer audience and putting on cabaret that really centres queer women and non-binary people I feel has enabled Pecs to hold a unique position in the arts. We were able to sit in that club and cabaret space but we were also able to transition our work into (harder to access) theatre spaces, and this has helped to craft much of my current position in the culture sector in general.

I think the thing we uniquely do really well at Pecs is to create access points for bigger issues through a fun cabaret. That was the question I was bringing to a lot of my work, “How do we use this sort of melting pot of activism, art and fun and also create art as a protest but also art and queer culture as radical queer joy?”

I believe it is through maintaining the balance between those two environments within what Pecs do – creating both full-length theatre cabaret shows and our smaller cabaret club nights – that has brought us this really rich and vibrant queer audience.

This has given us leverage with a lot of other cultural institutions – Southbank Centre and Tate, for example, spaces that can feel impenetrable in many ways. We can bring our audiences across the threshold, which benefits the cultural institutions, but simultaneously we bring something more radical, slightly more accessible into those spaces.

When we did Sex Sex Men Men at the Yard in 2019, the theatre team told us that the good majority of the bookers had never come to the Yard before. This made it clear that our audience is a different type of person, not that traditionally culturally engaged elitist audience member but also those grassroots community members who have been drawn in by the club scene.

That’s been the way I’ve operated in queer culture – to be a bit of a bridge between two places but with grassroots access stability always at the centre of what I do.

How do you feel your Clore Leadership journey impacted or supported you with these personal experiences?

We went straight into a pandemic after I did Emerging Leaders but I would say that as someone who operates in more activist or sub-culture spaces and feel slightly more uncomfortable in corporate or formal spaces, that the benefit of doing Clore Leadership enables you to pick and choose various tools to use in those less accessible spaces to form that bridge. This allows you to speak their language while offering something different to the established cultural spaces. 

I’m a great believer in slow, detailed change and I think that by doing programmes and activities with Clore Leadership, I’ve given myself the tools to influence cultural change on a larger scale even though that might happen more slowly than it is the sole responsibility of one person.

I’m also very aware of the privilege that I hold, whilst I hold a lot of other identities, I still hold some that give me great privilege to be in those spaces.

Engaging with Clore Leadership has enabled me to bring the people that are significant to me, the culture that they represent and the incredible radical work that they do, into a space that maybe is less familiar to them but where they could greatly benefit from certain conversations and use similar tools to enable that conversation to happen.

I guess this is the definition of being a producer in a cultural context. I’ve always wondered what the term cultural producer means but I think maybe it’s that!

What have you learned along the way?

I suppose it is about the different ways that people communicate and how you influence change in diverse ways. That’s one of the valuable takeaways I took from Emerging Leaders – really appreciating that I could enable communication in a way that would enable different people to do the same thing.

I think that’s all part of that culture shift that I feel really passionately about. With my access and inclusion work, I am always going on about slow change but also cross-learning: how can being around a lot of different influences, and different ways of communicating, really shift things in your mind. That might seem obvious in some ways but actually can have a great benefit to a lot of people.

Going forwards how can the sector better support/celebrate the community, especially during Pride month and beyond?

I guess that sometimes I think because the arts can be perceived as a very liberal place that there is this misunderstanding that queer and LGBTQ people don’t still need support. Whereas, actually, I think we find ourselves right now in the midst of quite a complicated and difficult culture war whereby right-wing radical groups are attempting to influence and infiltrate some of our cultural institutions, our funding, our policy.

We had it recently for example, with the LGB Alliance, considered a “hate group” by many, who were awarded a grant as part of the Let’s Create Jubilee Fund but had it withdrawn after a campaign highlighting their discriminatory views against the trans community.

I think we have to be very aware of how the culture war and anti-LGBTQ actions aren’t just a big splash that you see in the Daily Mail, aren’t just the physical acts of protests or media discussion, people think its reactionary media but it’s not, it’s also nuanced, quiet and planned-out anti-LGBTQ+ strategy. I do think there’s a rise in homophobia and transphobia at the moment and the sector needs to realise that this affects all LGBTQ+ people, regardless of the sector.

Just because you are an LGBTQ person in the arts doesn’t mean it’s any different for you as an LGTBQ person seeing this happen. Therefore, I think that leaders and those in the cultural sector need to be paying attention to how the cultural sector is being infiltrated by some of these non-progressive voices in ways that they maybe aren’t expecting. One way in which it is trying to make some of our arms’ length bodies seem politically aligned so that they can be de-stabilised. I’m very concerned for example about the announcement of the investigation into Arts Council’s work (which was in the Stage a couple of weeks ago) – as it’s these kinds of actions which cause that destabilisation to happen and for there to be more control given over to those with a political agenda.

How exclusionary groups are utilising the culture sector to advance their agenda in a more insidious way than we realise. And de-stabilising our inclusive policies in grants, in jobs, all these things could suddenly become completely de-stabilised, which is very concerning for any queer people working in the cultural sector.

If the government become more involved in how the Arts Council give that funding it could mean that anything that doesn’t support the government will never get funding again – and that is not a democracy!

What can leaders do to create safe/welcoming spaces?

It is about making sure leaders are aware that these insidious groups are trying to de-stabilise the way inclusive policy works in both the cultural sector and its funding etc. but also to ensure that there is intersectional queer representation within your staff bases, within your leadership positions, within your organisation (if part of one), the keyword there being intersectional queer voices because we need that breadth of experience.

Also, to hold up the idea of queer failure? There’s this idea that if you are from marginalised groups (like an LGBTQ person) that you need to be exceptional and perfect, so often queer people are pitted against each other as they’re seen as the only ‘queer voice’ and aren’t allowed to fail or grow.

Actually, that intersectional breadth of experience is what is so strongly needed to prevent people from being pigeon-holed, to allow them to make mistakes and to allow them to be supported and to understand that sometimes because of your lived experience and because the marginalisation that you have faced you may not have had the same amount of training, or use of language or opportunities, exposure to formal environments – some of these things are intensely uncomfortable for queer people. It’s essential to make sure there is dedicated time for people to make mistakes and be developed out of that rather than be excluded.

As a Board Trustee, what are your thoughts around representation within leadership roles?

Currently, I don’t think there is enough representation and I say that knowing I am another white queer person on a Board, there are other people like me.

But I also say that as a disabled person, as a neurodivergent person, and as a trans person, these are other intersectional areas that we are severely lacking in within trusteeships especially leadership in general.

It’s the same for people of colour, it’s those intersectional queer voices is that we lack in, as well as other things we lack in: a breadth of LGBTQ representation in leadership – I think this expands to intersectional identifies alongside those identities.

And I think it’s about challenging the way leadership looks, not just physically but the models we have created for leadership: they don’t necessarily work for queer people, for trans people, for disabled people, for people of colour etc.  Ultimately, you’ll get more representation in those roles once you start to change the way that leadership functions – I think we are coming out of (I hope) the idea of leadership being this one visionary that is a genius as that doesn’t allow for those ideas of failure, for those things that marginalised identities consistently have to battle with.

Once you start to adapt the environment of leadership, you will see leadership radically transform into something that betters a wider range of people. Stop trying to be palatable to a model that doesn’t actually work for most people.

You can find out more about Daisy Hale’s work here and also more about Pecs Drag Kings.