Inaugural meeting of Innovators Group
Friday 5 March 2010
Museum Geelvinck , Amsterdam
10h00 Arrivals & coffee
10h20 Welcome & introductions
10h30 Context & rationale for Innovators Group
British Council staff
11h00 Discussion on cultural leadership
Triggered by Quinten Peelen & Björn Stenvers
12h00 Short break & refreshments
12h10 Discussion on audience development
Triggered by Mat Fraser and Sarah Toplis
13h10 Round-up discussion on Innovators Group future
Lunch & networking
Bill Aitchison; Mark Baldwin; Edwin Buijsen; Joanna de Jong-Keogh; Sander
Foederer; Peter Foolen; Mat Fraser ; Sophie Hayles; Martin Hope; Anneke
Jansen; Lissa Kinnaer; Erik Kouwenhoven; Canan Marasligil; Nick Merriman;
Bert Palinckx; Quinten Peelen; Camilla Robinson; Jerker Spits; Bjorn
Stenvers; Sarah Toplis; Kas van Baasbank; Fabienne van Beek; Xavier
Vandamme; Vincent Van den Bossche; René van der Pluijm; Ikaros van
Duppen; Sarah Weatherall
Odile Chenal; Manon de Ruijter
Biographical details of each participant are at the foot of this report.
Context & rationale for Innovators Group
Mark Baldwin thanked the Amsterdam Historical Museum for providing the
meeting venue, and outlined the following:
In April 2009 the British Council began the pilot year of Cultural Leadership
International (CLI), engaging with partners across the UK, Western Europe,
the Middle East, North Africa and the United States.
The cultural sector has a unique and vital role to play, both in rebuilding the
world economy and strengthening international collaboration. By nurturing
creativity and innovation, the cultural sector contributes immensely to
economic development, but this is seldom recognised. As a cultural relations
organisation, the British Council realises the value of investing in cultural
leadership, and in particular the need to invest in the best and most innovative
individuals to lead the sector.
The CLI project is about identifying those individuals and developing them into
the next generation of international cultural leaders: creating the links that will
allow them to share knowledge; and establishing relationships that will
encourage cross-border understanding for years to come.
At the outset of the project, British Council Netherlands and Brussels worked
with the Dutch Ministry for Education, Culture and Science, the Van Gogh
Museum, and Hugo de Greef of Flagey as authoritative voices to help identify
nominees to participate in the project.
In May 2009 four of these nominees were then invited to attend a leadership
training event in Madrid, and to write personal development plans for their
continued growth in this field. Two of these individuals then received a British
Council grant to implement their plans.
Inspired by the original nominees’ expertise, and aiming to keep these people
involved and extend the reach of the CLI project, the British Council
Netherlands developed the concept of the ‘Innovators Group’. This includes
building a new cultural leadership network across the UK and Benelux
countries, which incorporates an international professional exchange.
The common link between core members of the ‘Innovators Group’ is that
they have potential to lead positive change in their cultural sector.
The British Council Netherlands will co-ordinate these meetings, and also act
as a gateway between the Innovators Group and UK experts and other
international cultural players, using its own network of offices worldwide.
Meetings will be hosted in rotation by members of the group. A high level of
in-kind costs will be met by hosts, who will provide meeting space and simple
Incorporated in this initiative is a series of 3-day international professional
exchanges, which introduce participants to key contacts, expertise, and
practices in the UK’s cultural sector, and then vice-versa when the UK-based
counterpart makes a reciprocal visit to the Benelux region. This is to swap
perspectives not just on their own organisation/activities, but also the wider
cultural infrastructure of that region, thus also forming new international
channels for sharing expertise, presenting artworks, and several other forms
of creative public engagement.
In the first such exchange, Björn Stenvers, Amsterdam Historical Museum,
was partnered with Nick Merriman from The Manchester Museum. A report on
this exchange will be disseminated to the Innovators. It is envisaged that
future exchanges include other members of the Innovators Group, with the
results shared in the same way.
The British Council’s CLI programme will fund the Innovators Group for its
pilot year (ending 31 March 2011), after which it should become self-sufficient.
Martin Hope outlined the British Council’s (BC) approach to cultural relations.
Projects such as CLI and Innovators illustrate the BC’s commitment to the arts
sector, although its work also extends to many other fields. For example,
other projects like ‘Our Shared Europe’ promote greater understanding of
Muslim contributions to contemporary European society, while ‘Inclusion and
Diversity in Education’ promotes social cohesion and raising educational
standards in culturally inclusive schools.
The BC recognises the role of culture in social enrichment, and has a practical
approach to enabling this. Projects are always designed and delivered with
external partners, and it is envisaged that the Innovators Group will generate
some future collaborations. The BC is particularly interested to present
emerging British artworks (visual, performing, literary, musical, etc) to new
audiences in the Benelux, and also to make the UK more porous to work from
the Benelux. Members of the Group are therefore invited to suggest practical
ways of introducing new art from the UK to new audiences in the Benelux,
and vice versa.
Sophie Hayles introduced the British Council Art Collection - a unique, vast
collection containing thousands of works from the 20th and 21st centuries
featuring many of the most important UK artists.
The Collection, however, is more than the works themselves – it is a
repository of knowledge and expertise about all aspects of contemporary art
and its administration, and could be used in many ways including:
professional development for young cultural professionals; loans to other
cultural organisations; displays that meet particular themes (e.g. sport, Darwin,
climate change, environmental issues, education etc); enhancing celebrations,
events and anniversaries through special exhibitions from the Collection; the
British Council welcomes the opportunity to work with curators from different
regions, opening up the Collection to new eyes.
More information is at: http://collection.britishcouncil.org/
Quinten Peelen triggered discussions with a short account of his Cultural
Leadership International (CLI) journey. He spoke about the awkwardness of
being in a new leadership position, where direction is not always clear, but
also that there is often more merit in acting quickly than in drawn out thinking.
In particular, directing the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition, and
leading the City of Utrecht’s bid for European Capital of Culture 2018, has
taught him the value of “just going for it”. Coupled with this leadership style,
Quinten’s role has required him to “share the stage with others”, which has
resulted in more effective partnerships and sense of co-operation.
Björn Stenvers added his perspective, describing how he has used some
formal analyses of his behaviours to examine his leadership style. At the CLI
training event in Madrid a self-assessment exercise identified his personal
leadership style as ‘transformational’. This, together with a structured review
of his professional work, has led him to redress his work/life balance with a
new focus on health and continued academic learning – changes which he
expects to result in more effective leadership of others: a transition from
‘manager’ to ‘leader’. As a very visible member of Amsterdam’s cultural and
marketing activity, Björn has also committed to expressing himself more
openly and directly than before.
There followed a discussion on the differences between cultural leadership
and cultural management, where some felt that principles of support and
coercion apply respectively. Other agreed that cultural leadership, as
espoused by the Clore programme, begins as highly personal, and is less
about a specific set of skills and more about a thorough introspective
understanding, such as how to build vision and how to overcome hidden fears.
The meeting heard that in some parts of Europe, including Belgium,
leadership in the cultural sector is sometimes considered taboo, where the
term has an overly assertive tone unsuitable in not-for-profit activities.
It was agreed that cultural leadership was bound to differ between countries,
where local conditions inform and impact upon methods used. Differing value
systems of the leaders concerned would also have impact upon how they lead.
Some argued that leadership styles differ dramatically between independent
operators in the ‘underground’ scene and those belonging to state-funded
Some of the freelancers and smaller organisations said their relative
independence gave them flexibility to lead new initiatives quite independently,
though gathering necessary formal and financial support as an individual was
often hard. Representatives of large and state-supported cultural
organisations responded that they are under similar pressure to find
innovative ways to succeed in the sector – they cannot rely only on their
masterpiece paintings or star exhibits, but must adapt to stay ahead of trends
in cultural engagement (e.g. education programmes, community outreach,
using new technologies).
In identifying opportunities to improve as a cultural leader, there was debate
over the comparative merits of structured, formal self-analysis and the more
ad hoc approach. Some of those who work on a project-by-project basis felt
that securing each new contract presented the chance to examine one’s
strengths and weaknesses afresh, creating a useful cycle of self reflection and
Mat Fraser opened this topic from his perspective as a disabled artist
producing art about disability. He gave examples of where the equality and
diversity discourse was encouraged by the cultural sector, such as the ‘Niet
Normaal’ exhibition in Amsterdam and the ‘From the Margins to the Core?’
symposium at London’s V&A Museum (www.vam.ac.uk/conferences), but felt
that more should be done, warning that cultural programming which excludes
artists and performers with disabilities will result in a kind of cultural apartheid.
He cited the London Olympic’s ‘Unlimited’ initiative in which disability, arts,
culture and sport are all celebrated as part of the same programme, as a good
model for radical progress in audience development. He also described how
Liverpool made disability a major aspect in their year as ‘European Capital of
Culture’ in 2008, leaving a powerful legacy where the city continues to
genuinely embrace equality and diversity in its cultural activity.
Sarah Toplis provided background on her role in youth programming
at Tate Media, London, where new and recent technologies such as social
networking tools have been used to create new relationships with new young
audiences. In using such tools for this purpose she said their advantages
were informality, popular usage, minimal costs, and relevancy with the target
Sarah also described Tate initiatives which support emerging creativity, such
as the Pop life Design Challenge in partnership with Threadless.com, where
young designers were invited to submit T-shirt designs inspired by a Tate
exhibition. The winning design was then produced and sold through Tate
channels. This involved young people directly with the gallery’s displays in a
mutually beneficial and creative way, which cultivates a lasting relationship.
In the discussions which followed, one festival organiser spoke of efforts to
create a sense of ownership in their audiences, so that they felt they had a
stake in the festival and its programme. For example, audiences were
encouraged to submit reviews of performances to the festival website by SMS.
There was a small charge for this to cover costs, but also to foster a critical
responsibility in the sender, as well as sense of holding a share in the
festival’s activity. In this way a festival’s core audience may act as its
ambassadors, generating new audiences for the future.
There was agreement that marketing plays a central role in successful
audience development, and a range of views on how this should be achieved.
Some cities have organised their marketing efforts cohesively to include
culture, accommodation, dining and leisure, which has increased general
uptake of culture by visitors to that area, while the cultural offer in other cities
is marketed in a more segregated way. Inherent to this difference is the play-
off between the broader economic well-being of the cultural sector, and the
artistic integrity of the art forms being offered, which raises the question:
should programming be more audience-led or artist-led, and how can an
effective balance be achieved?
Round-up discussion on Innovators Group future
Joanna de Jong-Keogh re-iterated the BC’s purpose to bring communities and
networks together through arts and culture, science, and education, to build
trust, understanding, and new ways of knowing one another. This cannot be
achieved without first listening to others and working alongside them. The BC
is not a simple provider of financial subsidy to the arts sector, but seeks
partnerships where new work can be brought to new audiences.
Defining these new audiences is crucial to ensuring that the BC’s work is
relevant to those we work with, and those who want to work with us, and the
Innovators Group is a powerful tool to achieve this.
Key points for the future:
- The Innovators Group will be invited to meet again twice over the next
12 months, proposed dates are September 2010 and March 2011.
Members are asked to make their premises available to the BC for
future meetings of the Innovators Group.
- Members are asked to submit themes and nominate relevant speakers
for future meetings to the BC.
- There will be another professional exchange between cultural sectors
in the UK and the Benelux region during the next 12 months, proposed
for December 2010 (though this timing is flexible). Members wishing to
be considered for this exchange should submit a basic proposal to the
BC, outlining how they plan to share innovations in cultural practice
between the UK and the Benelux. Proposals should be sent by email
before 31 August 2010.
- The BC seeks to collaborate with partners in activities which present
emerging British art forms to new audiences in the Benelux, and vice
versa. Members of the Group are invited to submit proposals by email.
- Mark Baldwin will be the central contact point for the Innovators Group
Canan Marasligil asked the Group to consider which means of communication
would be best to maintain contact between meetings. A simple email
circulation list will be used in the first instance, but please let us know if you
have other suggestions
The meeting was closed.
Participant biographies and contact details
Bill Aitchison is a performance artist based in London. He has presented his
performances and art works in galleries, theatres and festivals in the UK, US,
Belgium, China, Croatia, France, Germany, Israel and The Netherlands. His
work has been supported by Arts Council England and The British Council
and he has made international co-productions with partners in Beijing and
Frankfurt. As a writer and performer he has created a number of original
works with Ivana Müller and Apocryphal, among others. He holds a practice-
based PhD from Goldsmiths College on performance art and performer
discipline, has published critical articles and reviews and made several pieces
for radio. www.billaitchison.co.uk
Project Manager, Benelux Region, British Council
Head of Collections, Royal Picture Gallery Mauiritshuis, The Hague.
The Mauritshuis Collections Department is responsible for the optimal
preservation and management of the museum collection, the art historical and
technical research on paintings in the collection, and the compilation and
organisation of exhibitions.
Edwin Buijsen interned and volunteered at the museum while still studying art
history at Leiden University. Subsequently, he assisted on projects and
exhibitions at the museum for several years. In addition to the Mauritshuis, he
has also worked for the RBK (Netherlands Office for Fine Arts) and art dealer
Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder. He has been employed by the RKD (Institute for
Art History) since 1995; first as Curator of Old Master Painting and as of 2001
as Curator of Research and Technical Documentation. Buijsen has written
books and articles on Dutch painting and drawing from the 15 th to the 18th
Born in France, Odile graduated in Art History and History (Nancy) and
Political Sciences (Paris/ Oxford). From 1975 to1982 she worked as
sociologist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. In
1982 she moved to the Netherlands as Director of the Centre Culturel
Français in Rotterdam, and later Cultural Attaché at the French Embassy in
The Hague. Since 1990 Odile works at the European Cultural Foundation,
currently in charge of Research and Development.
Manon de Ruijter
Project Manager, Benelux Region, British Council.
Joanna de Jong-Keogh
Projects and Partnerships Manager - Benelux Region, British Council.
Sander Foederer holds a teaching degree in arts and went on to study
photography in Amsterdam, at which point he also worked as a freelance
assistant for a wide range of photographers. Sander graduated from the
'Fotoacademie Amsterdam' in 2005 and has been working as a freelance
photographer ever since.
Aside from commissioned work, Sander regularly initiates his own projects
which have garnered nominations and awards on numerous occasions.
He is currently also a visiting lecturer on photography at the Willem de
Kooning Academy in Rotterdam.
For more information please visit: www.sanderfoederer.nl
Peter Foolen is a publisher and curator based in the Netherlands. He has
organised exhibitions and published editions and books since 1994 with visual
artists from Great Britain in the field of conceptual, minimal and landscape art.
He has worked with, among others, the artists Richard Long, Hamish Fulton,
Douglas Gordon, Gary Hume, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Ian Whittlesea and Alan
Mat Fraser is a disabled actor writer, comedian and performer whose work
always seeks to change the cultural landscape around the inclusion of
disability. Over the last 10 years he has produced work that has been
acclaimed internationally and won many awards. Feature films, TV drama
series, TV documentaries, musicals, plays, cabarets, lectures, one man
shows, and photographic exhibitions have all been used by him to expand his
agenda of entertaining and educating. His recent work has espoused
inclusion and adult themes, of which the two current touring shows “Beauty
and the Beast” (recently performed at the Rozen Theater in in Amsterdam as
part of Niet Normaal), and “The Freak & The Showgirl” are good examples of
this ethic and work. For more information on Mat and his work, please go to
Sophie joined London’s Whitechapel Gallery as External Relations Officer in
January 2010. Her role is a mixture of advocacy, fundraising, and building
local, national and international relationships for the Gallery. Prior to this
Sophie worked in a freelance capacity as Project Consultant to the London
Festival of Azerbaijani Arts, and on the British Council’s creativity portfolio in
the Near East and North Africa. This included managing the British Council’s
Cultural Leadership International programme for the region, having
coordinated the global research phase for the programme across Europe and
the Middle East. For two years Sophie held the post of Arts Manager in British
Council Brussels, and prior to that was Gallery Assistant in a start-up gallery
in London: ROLLO Contemporary Art.
Director, Benelux & EU offices, British Council.
Programme Editor at the International Literature Festival, Winternachten.
Programme Director at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival. The Amsterdam Fringe
Festival started four years ago as a reaction to the annual National Theatre
Festival. It's based on the successful model of the Edinburgh Fringe &
Adelaide Fringe (there are over 60 Fringe Festivals world wide now).
From 2003-2004 Lissa was Assistant Art Curator at the International Institute
for Contemporary Arts (InIVA) in London.
Between 2004-2006 she was active in the cultural sector in Brussels,
including involvement with Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Bozar, and the
International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts (IETM).
Since October 2006 Lissa has been co-ordinator of the Réseau des Arts à
Bruxelles, a Brussels-based cultural network which aims to stimulate
collaboration within the cultural field and promote a shared vision for cultural
development in Brussels.
From 2009-2010 Lissa has been a Cultural Leadership International fellow.
Erik Kouwenhoven studied Theatre Design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy.
After his studies he worked as assistant to Jan Fabre/ Troubleyn for his
theatrical and visual art works. After being the artistic leader of his own
international theatre and dance company, Public Affairs, Kouwenhoven’s work
shifted slowly into arts management. For the last ten years he has been
Director of several different theatre organisations. See also:
Project Manager, Benelux Region, British Council.
Dr Nick Merriman
Nick Merriman became Director of the Manchester Museum in March 2006.
Prior to that he was Director of Museums and Collections, and Reader in
Museum Studies, at University College London for 8 years. During this time,
he developed new courses in museum and heritage studies and created a
new university-wide museum service.
Before leaving to take up his current post, he led a project to construct a new
building for the collections which raised £13.5m.
From 2004-6 he was a part-time Fellow on the Clore Leadership Programme,
undertaking a bespoke scheme of training and development in cultural
He began his career at the Museum of London in 1986, as Curator of
Prehistory and subsequently Head of the Department of Early London History
and Collections. While there, he led a pioneering project called 'The Peopling
of London' which told the story of the capital's cultural diversity from ancient
times to the present.
He studied archaeology at Cambridge University, and his PhD, on widening
participation in museums, was published as 'Beyond The Glass Case'. He has
published widely on museum studies topics, was Chair of the International
Council of Museums (UK) from 2001-2004 and has been President of the
Council for British Archaeology since 2005.
Bert started his professional musical career as a musician in 1981 (double-
bass) and played with his band Palinckx (with brother Jacq) at several
important improvised music festivals in Europe, Canada and the USA. With
the group they released several CD’s and performed on radio and television.
In 1999 he became the Artistic Director of the November Music festival which
takes place in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which is at the moment the most important
new music festival in The Netherlands. November Music is part of a network
of some important European new music festivals. The goal is to exchange
ideas and projects and to develop international productions where composers,
musicians and ensembles of different countries work together.
At the moment Bert is also advisor at the Dutch Performing Arts Fund.
Since 1999, Quinten has been Director of the International Franz Liszt Piano
Competition in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The Liszt Competition is held every
three years and attracts top piano talents from all over the globe. As director
he has developed the reach of the festival which now includes a round of
International Selections (in Utrecht, New York, Shanghai and Moscow) and a
series of piano master classes across Asia and the US. In 2009, he was also
elected vice-president of the World Federation of International Music
Born in Soho, London in 1978, Camilla studied Fine Art. She began working in
the film industry as an Art Director whilst developing her own practice as a
filmmaker. Her portfolio combines experimental narrative film & video, with
creative collaborations with fashion designers and architects. In 2009 she was
nominated for the Vauxhall Collective, Emerging Filmmaker Award. Her work
has screened internationally in film and fashion festivals, museums and
galleries. Since 2007 she has curated the Short Film & Video Programme at
the Chelsea Arts Club, London.
Jerker Spits is a Policy Advisor in the Department for the Arts at the
Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. His areas of specialty
include international cultural policy and arts funding. He holds a PhD from
Leiden University. In 2009, the ministry and the Van Gogh Museum each
nominated a shortlist of individuals to join the British Council’s Cultural
Leadership International project.
Björn has worked as a marketeer in the Netherlands' cultural sector for a
number of years, and also has marketing experience in the fields of publishing
and retail. He is currently Head of Marketing at the Amsterdam Historical
He is Chairman of the Marketing Advice Group to the Amsterdam Tourism &
Convention Board, and a Board member of the Association of Cultural
Marketing and Communication in the Netherlands, as well as holding other
senior positions in Dutch cultural life.
Björn won the national Library Innovation Prize in 2006, for his work at the
Amsterdam public library.
Sitting on the boards and commissions of various other institutes in the
Netherlands, Björn provides marketing advice and strategic planning to their
He is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, and Board
Chairman at the ‘Volksuniversiteit’ in Amsterdam.
Sarah Toplis joined Tate Media, Tate’s Digital Programmes department in
2008. Her role as the Young Tate Online Editor involves developing projects
to engage younger audiences across the three Tate Channels; Tate galleries,
online/broadcast and third party partnerships. Sarah has worked across the
Arts, Media and Cultural sector. Both as an Editor and Producer for Getty
Images and also as part of the Creative Partnerships team, the Art Council
England’s national creative learning programme. Sarah continues to develop
her understanding of how younger audiences engage with creative content
across different channels and her keen interest in Photography, Film and
Kas van Baasbank
Programmer, Van Baasbank & Baggerman.
Kas van Baasbank has been working for this company for around 6 years. He
started out in production, tour management and touring with foreign theatre
companies. In the last few years he has been more involved in finding shows
throughout Europe and booking and organising tours for them in Holland.
Van Baasbank & Baggerman also programmes and produces the Julidans
Festival in Amsterdam, together with the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam.
Fabienne van Beek
Fabienne’s museum career started at the V&A in London, as an intern.
After that she worked for het Erfgoedinspectie, sector Collections for the
Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (ministerie van OCW) in The
Currently she is working for the Graphic Design Museum in Breda, one of the
youngest museums in the Netherlands, which has been open to the public
As head of the Collections & Research department she is working on new
initiatives to make the collection more accessible for a wider audience through
making specific exhibitions and through the development of new media
Since April 2009, Director of Organisatie Oude Muziek Utrecht.
Xavier is the organiser of an international festival of early music in
August/September in Utrecht. He also organises Early Music concerts
throughout the year across several locations in the Netherlands.
Previously he worked for several years at BOZAR, Brussels.
Vincent Van den Bossche
After coordinating the regional selection of Kunstbende, a concours for
youngsters between 13 and 19 years old in the town of Mechelen, Belgium,
Vincent Van den Bossche started as ‘Communication Responsible’ for the
nOna Arts Centre nOna (2004-2009) and later as ‘Daily Coordinator’ (2009-
2010). In May 2010, Vincent will start working for fABULEUS, a professional
theatre & dance collective for young, dedicated and very talented people; he
will be working for fABULEUS as a part of the artistic team and coordinating
communication & external relations.
René van der Pluijm
Head of Programming at the Stadsschouwburg (City Theatre) of Amsterdam.
Ikaros van Duppen
Ikaros van Duppen studied musicology at the University of Amsterdam and a
post-doctorate in Sonology at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague.
After his study van Duppen worked for several cultural foundations organizing
concerts, festivals and seminars. Among them are the Royal Conservatory
(Sonic Acts Festival, May Festivals), Walter Maas Huis (debating centre for
arts/politics/science), Gaudeamus Foundation (International Gaudeamus
Music Week and International Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition). In 2008
van Duppen started working at Buma Cultuur to initiate new projects
promoting and supporting Dutch composers. This resulted in some new
festivals and network events Toonzetters (contemporary music festival
presenting the 10 best premieres of contemporary music by Dutch composer
from the year before) and Jazzdag (Dutch Jazz day, a network meeting of
1000 Dutch jazz professionals).
Sarah Weatherall, writer and film-maker is also artistic director of Lightning
Ensemble, a theatre company based in Southwark, South London.