Being a good leader can seem a dark art or something you dare not contemplate. However, Clore is here to help. The Clore Duffield Foundation is a charitable foundation that has spent the last 20 years providing training and support to develop leadership in the cultural sector. It is famed for its Clore Fellowship Programme.
I had always wanted to go on the Clore Fellowship but children and work had always made the intensive Fellowship Programme impossible. However, Clore had also realised this and in recent years has provided the Leadership Pulse Programme, which promises to have you ‘Consolidating and examining who I am as a Leader’. In a fit of lockdown excitement I applied (with the referee of a good colleague who also happens to be a Clore Fellow) and to my surprise got accepted. Little did I realise what a full-on experience it would be.
Firstly, the logistics. It is designed for anyone with at least 5 years’ experience in the cultural sector. It now consists of 2 modules of 5 days each, although when I attended it was 3 modules of 4 days duration each. You can attend virtually or in person. I did both. I would strongly recommend that you attend in person if you can as you really get to build relationships but the virtual delivery is really well handled and you feel very involved in the whole week. It costs £1000 – £2,200 plus VAT subsidized depending on the size of the organization you work for and readily welcomes self-employed people. There are a few unsubsidized places at £4700 plus VAT. This cost includes all accommodation (at a really comfy hotel in the Hampshire countryside near Winchester), all meals and a wickedly delicious supply of pastries and cakes throughout the day (you will not be losing weight on these weeks).
But the important bit – the content. You get through a lot in a very short time. Topics covered include how to do strategic planning, ensuring your wellbeing, personality profiling of participants, understanding authenticity, learning coaching skills, analyzing inclusive leadership, how to manage ‘Honest’ conversations (i.e. those really uncomfortable discussions), developing good governance, creating tools and skills for leadership through ‘leadersmithing’, finance for beginners, and how to lead change. The course was so rich for its content and the useful resources it gave delegates. I came away with so much that I will be digesting for a long time and applying for the rest of my life.
The standout was the quality of the speakers. Each session was led by a highly experienced individual from the cultural sector who spoke with passion and realism. The themed sessions were supported by evening presentations given by really outstanding people in the cultural field who were very honest in their experiences so we could learn and be encouraged by them. People were genuinely inspiring. It was all carefully facilitated by two experienced councillors and Clore Fellows – one a former dancer and another a theatre director.
Actually, there were two standouts. The other was the other delegates. Lovely is the only way to describe them. They were really mixed. From young to middle aged, right across the cultural sector, from self-employed to national institutions. Right from the off people were highly supportive and engaged, we all encouraged each other and we all learned from each other. The course is structured in such a way that you and your fellow attendees spend a lot of the time trying out the new found skills on each other. We were also required to publicly examine our own personalities, assumptions and events that has shaped us. It was a very personal experience. As a result we quickly bonded as a group and are still in touch.
So, as you can probably tell this was a really valuable and immersive experience. It was intensive and personal. It provided lots of practical advice and learning opportunities on personal and management skills that are so vital but can be so hard to define. It was also completely tailored for the cultural sector and delivered by those working in the cultural sector so there was no forcing of experience of ideas from other areas into a cultural setting. For once the training was completely relevant rather than the usual experience of having to translate the training for another environment into the cultural and archive setting.
I was, unsurprisingly, the only archivist on the course. There were artists, theatre directors, cultural project mangers, museum managers, a theatre lighting designer and even a specialist in theatre for d/Deaf people. People came from all sorts of backgrounds, ethnicities and working environments. It was wonderful to be alongside such creative people but they were also genuinely interested in my work.
So I would encourage anyone who feels their interest peaked by what they are reading to apply. It really is worth the effort and will serve you for your whole career (and indeed your private life). Whether you are only just at the 5 year mark, mid-career or at the top of the ladder there are things that will be of value to all of you. I would say that the earlier you can go on the course the greater the benefit.