Bringing together and building partnerships between Higher Education and the Cultural Sector across the Midlands

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On Translations at Nottingham Contemporary, Feb 2018. Photo: Sam Kirby

The Midlands Higher Education & Culture Forum is a dynamic network bringing together and building partnerships between Higher Education and the Cultural Sector across the Midlands. We aim to make a significant impact on the way we view research in a cultural context both regionally and nationally, providing a cohesive view of the landscape in order to advocate effectively.

Our forum comprises working groups each focus on themed priorities, developed out of conversations at our launch conference in late 2017 at Nottingham Contemporary. This convened 150 people from Higher Education and Cultural Sectors to identify shared strategic challenges and issues. It allowed us to examine how we might collectively address them and explored where we can more effectively collaborate and provide mutual benefit to enable a stronger voice for our sectors in the Midlands and influence policy and to develop a space that enables a single joined up conversation.

Throughout the summer and autumn of 2018, our working groups will be delivering a series of informal events to host conversations and discuss future steps.

The Forum will host a second conference, which will take place in early 2019 in Coventry.

Eleonora Belfiore

Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Loughborough University

Eleonora is professor of Communication and Media Studies at Loughborough University. She edits the curated blog The Cultural Value Initiative which focuses on questions of cultural value, arts and creative industries policy and cultural analysis. In her previous role at Warwick University, she was Director of Studies for the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value and co-author of its influential report Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth,2015. Eleonora co-directs the Talent & Placemaking working group for the Forum.

Rebecca Blackman

Director Midlands (Birmingham) at Arts Council England

Rebecca has recently become Director of Engagement and Audiences at Arts Council England and leads on Creative People and Places projects across the country. She is also the national funder’s Midlands Director, heading up the Nottingham office. Prior to joining the Arts Council, Rebecca’s previous roles include project manager for NHS anti-poverty projects and senior manager for Welfare Rights at Nottinghamshire County Council. Rebecca co-directs the Health & Wellbeing working group for the Forum.

Michaela Butter, MBE

Director, Attenborough Arts Centre at The University of Leicester

Michaela joins the forum steering group in her role of director of Attenborough Arts and also as a member of UCAN working group (University Centres for the Arts networking group.) Her experience includes over 30 years of visual arts involvement including her roles within museums and galleries and also as Director of External Relations for Arts Council England supervising an ambitious Capital Development programme across the East Midlands region. She is also a board member at PRIMARY studios. Michaela joins us to take part in discussions on Health and Wellbeing and Talent and Employability.

Mark Done

Senior Relationship Manager Midlands at Arts Council England

Mark joined Arts Council England in 2014 as Relationship Manager for Children, Young People and Learning. Since April 2017, he has been Senior Relationship Manager with responsibility for the Arts Council’s work in the Midlands in relation to music including music education hubs, and audiences and engagement. Mark leads on Creative People and Places and Celebrating Age strategic programmes in the Midlands. He co-directs the Health & Wellbeing working group for the Forum.

Jacqui O'Hanlon

Director of Education at the Royal Shakespeare Company

Jacqui joined the RSC in 2003 and has been Director of Education since 2008. Jacqui established the RSC’s Learning and Performance Network and initiated the company’s Schools’ Broadcast series which has reached 120,000 young people to date. She leads on developing strategic education partnerships with broadcasters, universities and theatres nationally and internationally. Jacqui directs the Cultural Education working group for the forum.

Carolina Rito

Head of Public Programmes and Research, Nottingham Contemporary

Carolina Rito is the Head of Public Programmes and Research at Nottingham Contemporary and Research Fellow in the Institute for Contemporary History at Nova University of Lisbon (Portugal). Since 2010, she has been teaching in Higher Education in the UK (Goldsmiths) and abroad in Visual Cultures and Curatorial Studies. She is a researcher and curator with a PhD in Curatorial/Knowledge in the Visual Cultures Department at Goldsmiths University of London. Carolina directs the Collaborative Research working group for the Forum.

Jennie Syson

Forum Coordinator

Jennie is an independent curator and writer known predominantly for working in the public realm and with artist-led organisations. Previous roles include directing her own independent commercial space Syson Gallery in Nottingham from 2013-18; Coordinating the British Art Show 7 Fringe and curator of Hinterland: Projects on the River Trent from 2006-10. Jennie has also worked as a public art consultant and has previously advised Contemporary Art Society, Multistory, UKYA and various independent projects. As a curator she previously worked for QUAD in Derby, Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester and Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool. Jennie is currently on the steering group for the Nottingham Art Map.

Sam Thorne (Chair)

Nottingham Contemporary Director

Sam is a writer and museum director. Since 2016, he has been the Director of Nottingham Contemporary and prior to that, he was artistic director of Tate St Ives. Sam is a contributing editor and columnist at Frieze magazine and has written widely about art, music and literature. In 2013, he co-founded Open School East, a free-to-attend art school in East London. He is also the author of a book about art education, titled School: A Recent History of Self-Organised Art Education, 2017.

Geoff Willcocks

Director of Arts and Culture, Coventry University

Geoff is Director of Arts and Culture at Coventry University. He is also the Chair of Coventry's Music Education Hub and the Chair of Music Coventry. Geoff has also advised Arts Council England on the role of Higher Education in UK Culture, is a member of the Advisory Board for Ludicrooms, the CU Social Enterprise Advisory board and is a member of the Executive Committee for Coventry's 2021 City of Culture Bid. Geoff co-directs the Placemaking working group for the Forum.