One of our skills exchange members, Nicki Ffrench Davis, has written a profile about herself and her work in the cultural sector in Cork, Ireland
mmediately on finishing my BMus in 1999 I began work in the craft sector, working for a small knitwear company, Dyed in the Wool. I fulfilled a number of roles including office administration, packaging, basic accounting, retail, wholesale sales representation (national and international) and product design, and was made a director.
In 2004 I returned to education for a Higher Diploma in Arts Administration. I went from there directly to work in Cork County Council’s Arts Office as Music Projects Administrator. The core of this role was to prepare and deliver a residency for the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland in Cork, which was primarily an education project.
In the course of my work with Cork County Council I met Francis Humphrys of West Cork Music who runs an international chamber music festival. I have worked for this festival each year since, mostly in Stage Management and Front of House and also work for West Cork Music in various ad hoc capacities from time to time.
In June 2005 I was engaged by Cork 2005: European Capital of Culture to start up and manage the programme’s Public Information Centre. In 2006 I was employed by the East Cork Early Music Festival as their first professional administrator and in September of the same year I began work for Civic Trust House as Building Administrator. This was a start-up project.
I have included below a section from a training Cultural Managers training programme I recently undertook [it may be of interest to some of you]
For me, the two main challenges facing cultural managers are:
1. Environmental management – there is little doubt in my mind that humanity needs to make significant changes in all our activities if our natural environment, on which we are utterly dependent, is to survive. This is particularly challenging for those of us living in Ireland and other islands. (Several farfetched ideas have come to my mind recently – getting sponsorship of whole carriages from train companies on the continent so performers might rehearse enroute to make up for longer journeys?! Festivals procuring a boat in collaboration with each other to allow for similar rehearsal/travel combination?!)
2. Like almost every other industry (bar liquidation/receivership perhaps!) we have serious challenges to face financially. I think it is time to look beyond relying on government funding and sponsorship from business and reappraise how we are viewed from the ‘outside’ as a sector. Many of us have willingly worked for comparatively low pay or in a voluntary capacity on many projects all our lives because we believe (and see) the value of our work. Does the wider community ‘get’ this? How can we nurture community support so that we can avail of skills and material beyond that which we can pay for? Put simply we need to continue to inspire others to support our work for the same reason we do it – for its intrinsic value (not necessarily in a mutual benefit through publicity manner) and perhaps at a much more individual level. To what extent can co-productions help us through, or do we run the risk of halving the amount of actual cultural output?
As well as everything else I’m on the committees of the Cork Orchestral Society, the Cork Jazz Festival and the Cork Cycling Arts Festival and am a founding member of Cork Chamber Choir, Cork Music Collective and previously Dublin Chamber Choir. As an independent producer I have produced several musical events of a high quality, and in 2007 I secured a €15,000 grant to establish and produce a cross-cultural ensemble led by a Congolese guitarist which went on to play to capacity audiences in Cork and tour Ireland
A little over two years ago I started learning the double bass never having played an orchestral instrument before, and am now a (struggling) member of Cork School of Music Symphony Orchestra.
Much of my consciousness however goes beyond the arts and the cultural in the common definition – in recent years I have begun to educate myself more widely and have taken an interest in political, civic and economic theory. I have a keen interest in international affairs and try to consult a broad spectrum of information sources, both mainstream and non-mainstream while allowing my own opinions to develop naturally.
I have begun to involve myself in some political activism to a small extent as I am concerned about corporate power, current political power structures and political ideology although I would not yet subscribe myself to any particular political philosophy. I am, however, equally concerned with the dulled interest of many of my fellow citizens in these matters and feel strongly that culture is an essential key to bring about change in this regard. I am excited that I feel for the first time the potential for real positive change in how our civilization is ordered and am committed to supporting cultural evolution wherever possible.
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