Leading the arts in a fragmented world

Culture provides a dynamic platform on which to unite, writes Hilary Carty, but how to regain faith in a ‘post-truth’ society?

An hour of news is all you need to track the international alliances that now weave across our paths. Globalisation has brought multinational business, linked economies and created intercultural organisations and interconnected lives. Whether it’s the presidential inauguration in the United States, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the harrowing scenes from Aleppo or the ever more sinister spectre of terrorism across the world, we share concerns and tragedies, aspirations and threats, all in real time. Economists speak of a shifting balance of power as we look increasingly East for resources, goods and services, and the ever more prosperous global customers and visitors.

Hilary Carty
Hilary Carty

But what of culture? What is the opportunity for cultural leadership in this international context? Is it enough to reflect or promote creative expression? Or should we be concerned with challenging the status quo – examining and articulating new and diverse expressions to anticipate the future and spark fresh perceptions? Culture provides the opportunity to network and share, to break down rather than build borders, and to create joint cause. Many have lost faith in politics: the ‘post-truth’ era scares even the brave and stark inequalities rattle the global economy. Culture provides a dynamic platform on which to unite.

To do this we must establish spaces to connect, to learn about and to appreciate difference: achieved by creating physical and intellectual spaces for cultural leaders to share their understanding of the future beyond the boundaries of their intentions and beyond institutional norms. What are the essential skills and qualities for leadership in a rapidly changing world – a world with new walls, stronger borders and a growing populism that narrows the gaze around identity and belonging?

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, immediately after the Brexit vote, launched a social media campaign, #LondonisOpen. Open to trade. Open to investment. Open to tourists. Open to innovation, arts, culture, learning and knowledge sharing. And it is important that London, with its global reputation for arts and culture, creates a pivot point for these debates by encouraging the exploration of challenging questions and affording critical dialogue about culture and society. That is the opportunity being afforded through the new Leading Culture programme, developed by King’s College London, where a long and successful track record of forming innovative partnerships across and between the cultural sector adds its academic insight to these debates.

Dynamically blending knowledge with experience, King’s is drawing on the sector-based expertise of an array of cultural professionals to make tangible the experience of 21st century cultural leadership. Onsite investigations make the probing of contemporary challenges both immediate and dynamic; and in partnering with Historic Royal Palaces, participants gain intimate access to the senior executive team at the world-famous Tower of London, with a one-day intensive programme exploring what it takes to run one of the City’s most visited heritage sites.

Leading Culture draws directly on the creative pulse of London’s cultural offer to stimulate:

international perspectives on cultural policy and practice, drawing on the expertise of organisations such as the British Council
policy review and analysis – connecting into national and local government and infrastructure
the value and contribution of the cultural and creative industries to society.
Innovations in the arena of the arts and digital

The week is jam packed with speakers and interventions; the stimulus for fresh ideas and creative thinking. But central to the pro- gramme is the setting aside of time for peer–to-peer learning: exchanging experience, weaving connections and building new long-term relationships. This is important not just for collaboration, but for continuing professional development and for creating new cultural and societal networks. We want this inaugural cohort to connect well into the future and to make small the borders that maintain difference. Already colleagues from Australia, Singapore, Europe and America are confirmed to make this happen. Leading Culture wants to create yet more ties that bind – making culture a key element of the international exchange.

co-creatives.co.uk | kcl.ac.uk/leadingculture

Hilary Carty is an experienced consultant, facilitator and coach specialising in leadership development, management and organisational change via her company Co-Creatives. She was the director of the Cultural Leadership Programme – a GBP22m (€26m) government investment in excellence in leadership within the UK cultural and creative industries. She has held senior level roles in the arts, cultural and creative industries at organisations including Arts Council England and London 2012.