Our new Chief Executive Fiona Allan has had a busy week with our local media – she has been interviewed by Birmingham Post and chatted to BBC WM’s Danny Kelly (listen from 2 hours 9 minutes in). Here’s what Fiona had to say when she delivered a speech to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce earlier this week.
“Firstly I’d like to say- how exciting it is to have moved to Birmingham. Having grown up in a city of now 5 million people- Sydney- I feel absolutely at home in a vibrant, cosmopolitan city like Birmingham, with its big city attitude and ambitions. I’ve moved into the Jewellery Quarter, and every morning as I walk to work, the energy of this city as it comes to life for the day is palpable- and I really hope to be able to bring my own energy and experience into the mix.
“Through my time at the Sydney Opera House, where I headed up the artistic programming department- I saw what a powerful role a cultural institution can have in fostering pride and civic identity, driving inbound tourism, and shaping public realm. In my 11 years in the UK, most recently through sitting on the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership- I’ve now seen first hand how cultural organisations can also contribute to urban regeneration, and influence inward investment.
“So I’m really keen now to continue the work that my predecessor Stuart Griffiths was so passionate about – how the Hippodrome can play a part in making Birmingham an even greater city.
“I’ve only been at the Hippodrome now for almost 5 weeks- so it’s still early days. I’m coming up with more questions than answers at this stage. But to give you a flavour of my thinking, some of the questions I’ve been posing to my team this week are:
- How do we use the Hippodrome’s expertise as producers and presenters to allow more people to access and engage with the arts in this city- like we did recently when the Hippodrome produced Birmingham Weekender, on the Grand central opening weekend, on behalf of the major arts organisations in the city
- We have incredible audiences and are the single most popular theatre in the UK- averaging half a million visits annually. How can we build an audience that is truly reflective of the city we serve- young , dynamic and diverse
- Given Birmingham’s growing reputation as a creative industries & digital hub, how can the Hippodrome better engage with and contribute to this agenda? Just an aside- I’ve recently been appointed Chair of The Space, a national digital commissioning body set up by the BBC and the Arts council of England. We are currently relocating The Space operations to Fazeley studios. So I have a number of interests in Birmingham’s creative industries.
- Another question I’ve been asking- given the Hippodrome is a major cultural leader within the city, what partnerships can we broker to help drive opportunities to position Birmingham as an exciting cultural- as well as retail- destination. As the city grows, with new infrastructure attracting valuable inward investment and jobs— how do we make sure that a vibrant cultural offer is promoted front and centre- to reinforce Birmingham’s attractiveness and international appeal.
- How do we use the Hippodrome’s incredible facilities to better advantage- conferencing, events, dinners on stage- providing more opportunities for companies to engage in B2B networking and hospitality, like today, and to engage and reward their employees.
- As a registered charity- and one that is not in receipt of any public subsidy but relies entirely on earned income- how do we invest our own money into projects to make sure that young people and those from disadvantaged communities can have access to the arts- and who can partner with us in achieving this ambition?
“Now- I know that Birmingham Hippodrome has had a long and fruitful association with the Chamber of Commerce that dates back many decades- and that many of you will have existing or previous relationships with us.. So I’m sure you already have your own views of what we do well, and where we have room to make a greater contribution. You may have your own answers to the questions I’ve been asking. I look forward very much to getting to know you and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you individually to throw ideas around.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t conclude with a little sales plug. Christmas is soon upon us, and I’m sure you’ve already booked your tickets to bring the family to Aladdin. I’ve got a few recommendations for Christmas presents. For musical lovers, I think you can’t go wrong with tickets to Mary Poppins or Mamma Mia. For those who love dance- or know someone who does, Mathew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet, or Carlos Acostas UK farewell performances will put you in the Christmas good books.
“It’s great to be here in Birmingham, and wonderful to have you here at the Hippodrome: I hope to have the chance to talk to you over the next few hours. Thank you.”