Producer

GAYLENE-GOULD

Creative Director: GAYLENE GOULD

Artist Zak Ové introduced me to Gaylene Gould in 2018, whilst we were working together on the exhibition Get Up Stand Up Now at Somerset House, London.

Gaylene was Head of Cinemas and Events at BFI Southbank at the time, and we met to discuss joint programming a public event, showcasing key films by Zak’s father, Horace Ové CBE. I was struck by Gaylene’s positivity and her warm, open, considerate, and grounded demeanour. I recall thinking that I wish I’d met her sooner.

I connected with Gaylene’s passionate belief in parity, equality, social justice, and her spirit of generosity combined with a can-do attitude. Curiously, unbeknown to me at the time, we were both ruminating quietly on new possibilities for our own creative practice and leadership responsibilities.

Since then, we have both taken a leap into the unknown, having left our senior roles in art institutions at roughly the same time to chart new territories and redefine our own contribution to the sector. We share a love of learning, of taking risks, a commitment to coaching, and of the power of making space for creativity and each other.

Gaylene Gould, Photo Nina J Robinson

Gaylene Gould is the Founder and Creative Director of The Space To Come which creates interactive art projects that aim to generously transform our connections to ourselves, each other, and the world. Her collaborative practice explores the healing and growth potential of sharing space, stories, ideas and knowledge.

What are you doing, reading, watching or listening to now that is helping you to stay positive?

I’ve carefully curated my cultural intake during the pandemic. The world is full of high drama right now so I’m imbibing intimate human stories, contemporary myth and ‘new world’ thinkers.  I was lucky enough to be on the BAFTA film jury this year so saw some wonderful films. It seems I’m not the only one drawn to the intimate and profound this year. I had my heart blown open by Chloe Zhao’s Oscar-tipped Nomadland, Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari and Darius Marder’s The Sound of Metal starring the finest actor of our generation IMO Riz Ahmed. After the rightful noise created by #BAFTAsowhite, it’s great to see East and South Asian film talent getting their due. Also, scaredy-cat that I am, I was so thankful for Remi Weekes British social-horror His House that I watched it twice.

My bedtime audio books gave me much needed perspective by offering contemporary versions of ancient myths. Hat tip goes to Monique Roffey’s The Mermaid of Black Conch, Hawaiian writer Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks In The Times of Saviours and Ben Okri’s The Freedom Artist.

And if it wasn’t for new-world philosopher Bayo Akomalafe I think I would have festered in a pit of despair. His online course, which took place through the darkest days of the pandemic, helped me grasp the transformative potential of these global ‘cracks’ and shifts. His work reminds that a truly sustainable new world will emerge from these places.

Listening to Ourselves, Curtis & Curtis, Photo Nina J Robinson

What are you working on right now?

I have just launched my creative (ad)venture The Space To Come, a company that tests ways art can connect, heal, and transform our relationships to ourselves and each other. TSTC brings together two of my life-long practices – coaching and curation. I’m curious how artists, healers and the public can co-create sensitive spaces to reflect, repair and reimagine new relationships.

I’ve been cultivating this practice for a few years but, given the crumbling state of the old world and the urgency to create a new one, the time is now for this work. Sometimes the “space” can be an interactive art project, a participatory workshop or a residency within a community. For instance, we’re about to curate a series of conversation dinners between the people of Newcastle-Under-Lyme for Appetite to encourage more intimate and compassionate connections. Meanwhile we’re developing a live programme with the Arnolfini gallery that will invite “felt-sense” experiences of artworks inspired by my radio 4 documentary Transcendence How Can I Feel Art Again?

Essentially our projects seek to use artistic forms to practice compassion and deepen our emotional intelligence.

Listening to Ourselves, Gaylene & Gaylene, Photo Nina J Robinson

What are your core values and drivers that you bring to your work? What do you care about?

I believe there is a desperate need for compassionate societies. Compassion is more than a fluffy add-on. It is kindness in response to suffering. If stitched into our personal and social relations, compassion can radically transform how we approach ourselves and each other. Violence is a common response to unacknowledged suffering. If we can find transformative ways to first acknowledge that there is suffering, including our own, then there might be the possibility for collective renewal. Arts’ fascination with the unresolved, the search for beauty where none should exist, the spotlight on our flawed fragility, is a great starting point.

How has this last year affected your ideas of what you want your contribution to be in future?

Like many others, this past year has been deeply exposing. The removal of distracting temptations while living so closely with death has been disarming. I suppose we have now experienced what day to day life is like for much of the world.  I’m grieving, for the unnecessary deaths, the result of an uncompassionate leadership, while buoyed by the voices of resistance that are coalescing.   I am now clear that the Old World, the one built principally on shame, fear, prejudice and greed, is crumbling and it's time for a new one to emerge.

When I launched The Space To Come I felt like I was coming out. I’ve always felt at odds with the makeup of the world and my constant and failed attempts to fit in. My work is now about actively cultivating the values - awareness, compassion, connection, generosity - that could create a new foundation from which to build afresh – ideally before we terraform Mars.

Listening to Ourselves, Steve & Steve, Photo Nina J Robinson

What do you think should change in the arts and how can we actively contribute to bringing about this change?

A new world founded on new principles would allow for new art to flourish. I dream of a time when the study of our emotional, ancestral, and imaginative intelligence comes before the study of stuff. Imagine if we were taught to listen and connect in healing ways, be comfortable with vulnerability, learn how to support wider ecologies. Art would then take a different place in society.

Art could then be woven into the fabric of our lives rather than be viewed as “content” or investment. Artists would be respected as the chroniclers, matchmakers, builders, healers, truth-sayers, doulas and undertakers that they are. A painting could take our breath away in aisle 4 of Aldi and we could be served an operetta on the bus home. Spoken word poets would open PMQ’s and a dance-off would close the day. Our schools would let children lie on their backs and tell stories as well as stick to the lines of a book.  Amanda Gorman’s poem at Biden’s inauguration encapsulated so much more than hours of speeches ever could. She helped us collectively feel, release, and emotionally process an extraordinary period of our lives. And that’s the whole point of art.

We can help by releasing art into the wild, setting it free from the hallowed halls and allowing it to inspire more expansive and urgent conversations between us.

Do you have a favourite exhibition/project/event that you have curated and if so, what makes it particularly special to you?

The Space to Come’s first online project Listening to Ourselves feels like the foundation to the work we will explore here. It’s an audio-visual project that combines photographs of people, lockdown friends in fact, seemingly in conversation with themselves. Two soundtracks accompany the images. One is a new soundscape with suggestions of how the music can be used to inspire a more intentional conversation with yourself. An intentional conversation is a way to explore our own in-the-moment thinking. It’s an experiment in developing self-awareness or self-befriending. The second audio piece is a recording of me having such a conversation.

The pieces were developed and created with photographer Nina Robinson and Gianmaria Givanni/ANNN who is an architect and a sonic spatial composer. The piece invites people to try the exercise then send back an audio response which we will weave into a new audio piece.

Listening to Ourselves explores all my key inquiries. How might we build more intentional connections with ourselves and others? How might artistic practices inspire more instinctive responses? And how might we bring together disparate voices to create new, aware communities?

This work may seem like an exercise in self-care, and while that might be an affect, the roots are social and political. It’s about testing out a new basis for new types of relationships. We’ll need those in the new world.

Listening to Ourselves, Beki & Beki, Photo Nina J Robinson 

What do you offer or provide artists in the curatorial or creative relationship?

This practice offers all collaborators - artists, healers, and the public - the opportunity to share something we haven’t shared before in a new way. With The Solace Salons, I brought together coach/therapist Jackee Holder, creative researcher Dr Sindi Gordon and myself with choreographer Freddie Opoku Addaie, comic John Simmit and composer and visual artist Liz Gre. Together we devised a new form of ‘performance workshop’ where the stories explored were brought by the participants. This way of working requires the artistic collaborators and the participants to be courageous and vulnerable. This is a nascent process. It’s felt. We must be kind to ourselves and each other as things won’t necessarily work in the way we imagined. It also forces us to be alive to what is actually unfolding.

What risks have you taken in your career that perhaps did not go so well but you learnt the most from?

Being the youngest child I was a born risk taker. I often move before I have anything fully worked out. I recently left my job as Head of BFI Southbank in order to decolonise my career in a sense. I wanted to move past a certain kind of ‘Old World’ idea of linear progress and development. This led to the formation of The Space To Come. The trouble is when I try and explain the project, many don’t understand it! So, this might be a risk that doesn’t go so well. But I am learning the most fundamental lessons of my life so far such as inquiries are not outcomes. Inquiries are to be explored which means I need the courage to step off the beaten path and then to cultivate the attention required to pick my way through unbeaten territory. If I want to create a new way of living I must first prepare to let go of everything.

Mission to the Land of Misplaced Memories, 2014, Gaylene Gould / dubmorphology, Tate Britain

Who or what inspires or lifts you up?

Conversations that allow us to say things or reveal parts of ourselves that we wouldn’t usually. Within each of us there is a library of experiences and emotional complexities.  Conversations with friends, family, shop assistants, the person in front of in the coffee queue….Satiating my salacious interest in people revives me. My broader passion in stories and art stems from this desire for human understanding and a deeper awareness.

What helpful resources would you recommend to artists?

Learn to have really great conversations with yourselves and others. Have rigorous conversations with yourselves that help you constantly review your held positions. Soothe your internal critic by practising Kristen Neff’s self-compassion exercises so you can hear your quieter voices. Practise spending time in unbeaten territory alone - even if it’s simply walking down streets you don’t recognise. Reveal your vulnerabilities to people then ask them kind, expansive questions in return. There are many resources that can help with craft but I think the work of creation is about activating a curiosity and befriending your own vulnerabilities.

Well Fed curated conversation dinner event, Photo Nina J Robinson

Do you have any advice for people wanting to work in the arts?

The Arts (capital A) is in a very contentious place. The growing commercial pressures can be distorting and the funded sector can be restricting and protectionist. Artists and cultural workers interested in new, expansive territories can find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Understanding the operating systems of these worlds whilst articulating and cleaving to your own value base seems particularly critical right now. Lucky for us, a brave new world is coming so it’s time to invent more values-led, compassionate spaces to exist in.

Follow Gaylene on Twitter @gaylene_g Instagram @gaylenegould / @thespacetocome or visit www.gaylenegould.com / www.thespacetocome.com 

 

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Producer Interview: ZERRITHA BROWN

I was introduced to the inspiring change-maker Zerritha Brown by Dhikshana Pering, Head of Engagement and Skills at Somerset House.

I was immediately struck by Zerritha's creative vision, her genuine desire to create opportunities for others and to platform the contribution of creative pioneers. She has a passion and commitment to effecting long-lasting social change through care, collaboration and co-production. She is warm, engaging, yet charmingly humble and self-effacing, which is admirable given her powerhouse credentials.

Zerritha hatches dynamic projects with creatives and audiences, rooting them in the community and contexts in which they are conceived, and they resonate way beyond their delivery date. She is a master of taking people with her on a wild and wonderful journey of creative exploration, guaranteeing outcomes that creatives, communities and global audiences connect with.

Zerritha Brown, Photo Roy Mehta 

Zerritha Brown is a Cultural Producer, Arts Manager and Leader with 20 years’ experience in community and participatory arts and large scale events. Over the last 10 years she has led on culture for Brent Council, most recently leading the production of the Brent 2020 No Bass Like Home digital archive and online festival, which captured the borough's reggae history through community stories, as well as the Windrush 70 exhibition, a heritage project co-produced with the community to celebrate the contributions of the Windrush community in Brent.

Her previous roles at Brent include Cultural Operations Manager responsible for the artistic and operational management of the new £10m flagship library, museum and cultural centre and London 2012 Manager for Brent responsible for the development of the borough's Cultural Olympiad programme and implementing the 2012 Olympic torch relay route and community engagement activations.

A Clore Leadership Programme Alumni, she is passionate about equality and access and committed to creating deep and meaningful engagement which effects lasting change.

Brent 2020 No Bass Like Home, Digital Archive Launch at Jamaican High Commission February 2020, Photo c/o Brent Council

What are you doing, reading, watching, or listening to now, that is helping you to stay positive?

I love listening to music, it nourishes my soul and keeps me positive. Reggae music, house and garage and cheesy 80's classic, all take me to happy places, connecting me to my youth, friends and family.

No Bass Like Home Online Festival, General Levy behind the scenes, November 2020, Image Credit Brent 2020

What are you working on right now?

Leading on the legacy of Brent's London Borough Culture, embedding culture across the organisation and continuing to build a cultural coalition across the council, with partners and the wider community.

Brent 2020 No Bass Like Home Bass Rewind Engagement Event, November 2019, Image c/o Zerritha Brown

What are your core values and drivers that you bring to your curatorial work? What do you care about?

I am passionate about communities, representation and inclusion and I’m committed to creating deep and meaningful engagement which effects lasting change. I love uncovering hidden histories and working with the community to create an artistic response. Over the last few years my practice has been focused on documenting black British history in Brent through the Windrush 70 exhibition and most recently the Brent 2020 No Bass Like Home digital reggae archive and online festival. At the heart of both projects was building meaningful relationships, embedding the projects in the community whilst connecting with nationally and international audiences.

Windrush 70: Brent’s Pioneering Generation exhibition 2018, Display case with original British Trinidad and Tobago Passports
and first edition copy of the Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon,
Photo ℅ Brent Museum and Archive

How have the events over the last year influenced your ideas of what you want your contribution to be in future?

The pandemic has been devastating on many counts for everyone, but there has been some chinks of light..it’s brought out a sense of community and forced us to slowdown and take stock of the things that are important and drive us. Coming out of this, I think community, collaboration and well-being will be really important in the Covid19 recovery and the arts and culture are well placed to support this.

What do you think should change in the arts and how can we actively contribute to bringing about this change?

Throughout the multiple lock-downs we have seen people gravitate to culture, whether that be reading, singing, knitting or engaging with online content.

I think this demonstrates the need for culture but that also it comes in different shapes and forms and approaches. The future of the sector should use this an opportunity to look at place based culture so that we are truly creating experience which are representative and connect with wider audiences.

Of course representation and inclusion is also a priority. More opportunities for young producers, curators, artists to enter and progress in the sector, development and mentoring as well as representation at every level of the organisation, not just entry level but mid career and managers.

Windrush 70: Brent’s Pioneering Windrush Generation Exhibition, 2018, Intro panel, Photo ℅ Brent Museum and Archive

Do you have a favourite exhibition/project/event that you have curated and if so,
what makes it particularly special to you?

The Brent 2020 No Bass Like Home project was both a professional and personal journey for me. My father is one of the Trojan Records session musicians who came to the UK in the early 70's to promote reggae music and toured with many of the reggae greats including Dave and Ansell Collins, the Cimerons band and Jimmy Cliff so I grew up in reggae. No Bass Like Home sought to capture the reggae history of Brent which was home to labels such as Trojan Records, Jetstar as well as artists Janet Kay, General Levy to name a few.

This is a history that the reggae community know but outside of this it isn’t well documented.

This created a platform for unheard stories which as well as being on Spotify will now have permanent home in the boroughs archive to preserve the reggae history.

My highlight however was leading the creative vision for the No Bass Like Home Online festival, a 7 hour festival curated by Seani  streamed from Brent, Jamaica and Florida celebrating the borough as a powerhouse of production and distribution for reggae and black British music. As well as profiling local and international artists, it was important to me that the festival featured interviews from the community and pioneer artists who were integral to the reggae movement.  The stream has received over 100k online views and I’m absolutely thrilled that London Live will be airing it throughout February for Reggae Month. Having a dedicated reggae show on prime time TV is unheard of so I’m incredibly proud to have the opportunity to bring the boroughs rich reggae history to a wider audience.

Windrush 70: Brent’s Pioneering Generation exhibition 2018, Installation View, Photo ℅ Brent Museum and Archive

What do you offer or provide artists in the curatorial relationship?

Creative freedom to create an artistic response, but I provide support and knowledge where needed. I act as an enabler, brokering relationships with other artists and the wider community and facilitating creative conversations.

What risks have you taken in your career that perhaps did not go so well but you learnt the most from?

I've made programming decisions which haven’t quite landed right and led to poor audience engagement. But I learnt from this that you need a strong marketing and communications strategy, thinking outside the the conventional methods but also developing trust and credibility with your audiences.

Brent 2020 No Bass Like Home Online Stream, Cimarons Band behind the scenes, November 2020 Image Credit, Brent 2020

Do you have any advice for people wanting to work in the arts?

It’s a great sector to be part of. People are genuinely passionate about creating work which engages, excites, sparks debate and encourages conversation.

My top tip would be to build your networks, both support and professional as they will be an invaluable support.

Follow Zerritha on Twitter @ZeeBrown50

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Interview: GILLIAN JACKSON

I met Gillian Jackson at Somerset House a few years ago, but knew of her work at Livity well in advance and have followed her career ever since. I was bowled over by her sunshine energy, enthusiasm, determination and truly impressed by the scale of ambition of her public projects, especially with young people.

She has an extraordinary skill at getting to the heart of the matter with individuals and collectives, creating exciting contemporary creative programmes, enabling skills development and establishing creative careers. She is brilliant at blending grassroots activism, analogue and digital processes and content to address the issues of our time, and generating public and private income to make it happen. Her knowledge and experience inspire me and continue to confirm the furlongs we still need to travel in arts organisations, to connect more deeply with our audiences, produce content with them that is more in tune with their daily lives.

Gillian works seamlessly with audiences, organisations, funders, and brands, to create a deeper engagement with the pressing issues of our time and encourage responsibility in us all. I am positive we will work together at some point, hopefully in the not too distant future.

Gillian Jackson is Director of Engagement at the House of St Barnabas, where she leads the brand, engagement, and cultural experience of its supporters. Previously, Gillian was Head of Engagement at social enterprise Livity, focused on aligning profit and purpose whilst building and strengthening relationships across Livity’s network. She has worked in music, culture programming and events for the last 15 years, leading long-term projects to develop new thinking via the cross-pollination of arts, culture, and technology. She is a Trustee of Culture24, a charity supporting arts and heritage organisations to connect meaningfully with audiences.

What are you doing, reading, watching or listening to now, that is helping you to stay positive?

The last few months have been incredibly hard, and I found the need to retreat and get off social media to stay positive. I have been reading a lot and have mixed my reading to find escape alongside educating myself further on some of big issues the world is facing right now.

I’ve just finished Educated by Tara Westover, which explores her spiritual and often physical upbringing alongside her drastic journey into education as someone who was entirely self-taught.

I’ve been enjoying Renegade: The Life and Times of Darcus Howe which explores his role in the defining struggles in Britain against institutional racism in the police, the courts and the media whilst providing a localised view of Black British History in London. As a Brixton girl, I grew up knowing about Howe as a friend of my dad’s, so his history feels incredibly poignant to me.

I also really enjoyed Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, by Chad Heap, which is a colourful account of a history that I didn’t know much about. It illustrates the racial history of gay rent parties in the prohibition era in Harlem, and how it helped to reshape the understanding of class and race amongst the cabaret community in New York.

Emerge Festival, London, 2019

How have recent world events affected your ideas, processes, habits, ambition, or methodologies?

I have reflected a lot on what is within my power to change and have been focusing a lot around two things - diversity in the arts more broadly, and around belonging and inclusion for all. The murder of George Floyd has created seismic waves in all aspects of my life, both personal and professional, and it has made me even more driven as an activist and creative to use my platform for good.

We are also in a digital renaissance and the World will never look the same again as a result. Lots of my practice lives in the physical world, although I have always been driven by how we bring the real world into the digital, so I am finding it a really challenging yet exciting time for change.

During lockdown I started at House of St Barnabas as Director of Engagement and have set out a strategy to reshape their approach to diversity across the board. I have also joined the Board of Trustees of Culture 24 and have also joined their board of diversity.

I also developed a programme of work for Livity called 'Livity In Future', where we got together 100 amazing young activists, creators, social entrepreneurs from all corners of the UK to come together and create change in response to Covid. We have developed an events and mentoring programme and will be working on a digital project together which is exciting.

Lovebox Festival, 2019, Photo @franxisaugusto

What will you do more of?

I will do more digitally, but also, I will consider my digital practice in a new way. Technology was built by a white man, and is one of the most non inclusive forms of creativity, and we all need to ensure we consider how we can use tech meaningfully to drive inclusivity and conversation.

As a Black woman, I have campaigned to open more doors for people of colour in the arts, but this is something I want to do more of and go further doing. I think there is a huge risk that we move to a place of racial capitalism following this movement, where organisations appear to reflect diversity without changing their practices or internal strategies.

What will you do less of?

I am doing so much more now that it is hard to consider what I will do less!

What recurring questions do you return to in your work?

The biggest question I have been asking recently is one around race and what my role is as a Black woman in a senior position within the arts. I still cannot see the perfect arts organisation, or brand that I believe in and I think that most organisations have a long long way to go to change their internal structures and strategies.

Livity Open House Festival, 2020

What risks have you taken in your work that paid off?

My practice involves taking risks and trusting collaborators to realise projects, and often the biggest successes have come with the biggest unknowns. At the end of last year, I worked on a project with Culture 24 called Emerge Festival, which was a museum lates festival that took over several different museums and cultural spaces around London. We programmed a headline venue at Banqueting House in partnership with artist Flohio and had an incredible line up of artists including Gaika, Green Tea Peng, Elheist and Glor1a to name a few. We brought together over 80 young people to deliver the project and trusting the skills of everyone involved resulted in something special.

What risks have you taken that perhaps did not go so well but you learnt the most from?

Sometimes the biggest successes come from the failures that you learn from. Working with young people for the last 7 years at Livity has helped me to grow in my own practice and understand my craft as a cultural programmer and the risks I have taken have taught me the most!

How would you like your work to lift others up?

I have built a creative practice based on providing a platform for others. At Livity, I am currently working on a project to help to connect 100 changemakers from around the UK to build projects, businesses and events that change the world. At House of St Barnabas, I have access to a space that will provide access to creatives and thought leaders to share their views. Every corner of my work is based on ensuring that I change systems and processes to make the world a more inclusive space for all.

Brixton Design Trail, Photo @marianap.res

Could you tell us about at a time when you felt stuck and what you did to help yourself out of it?

Whenever I get stuck in my creative process, I go for a run, or I sleep on a problem with a notepad by my bed. I find that the best ideas I have come when I am dreaming or running!

What compromises have you made in your work?

If I had all the money in the world, I would set up my own cultural institution. This is a long-term goal of mine. Cultural Institutions do not reflect the culture of their times and do not create spaces for young people from diverse backgrounds to belong in. It is a compromise not being able to make this dream into a reality! This is a five-year goal of mine.

What advice would you give your past self?

Believe in yourself, do not be afraid to be creative and speak out about what you believe in.

London Design Festival, 2019, Photo @sleame69mage 

What career hacks or useful nuggets would you give to aspiring creatives?

Go out there and start creating. If you don’t know how then find an organisation that can help you start your dreams. Check out Livity, Create Jobs, Social Fixt, GUAP, Spiral Skills to name a few.

Can you recommend a book film or podcast that you have been inspired by that transformed your thinking?

Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff Allende is a brilliant book about creating Good Trouble and looks at how 16th Century Pirates were the first social entrepreneurs that broke the system to create the change that they wanted to see. I could not recommend this book more.

Follow Gillian on Twitter @gilliantalking @HoStBarnabas @Culture24 @LivityUK and visit https://hosb.org.uk/

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