Venu Dhupa has just completed nearly three years work with Creative Scotland as Director of Creative Development as part of the senior start-up team. Her responsibilities included the Arts, a number of Investment Programmes and International Strategy and Engagement. Prior to working at Creative Scotland she was working as a consultant and had her own publishing company.
Former employment has been: World-wide Director of Arts for the British Council where she led and completed the first international consultation/review in 25 years on the Council's global arts strategy; Director of Creative Innovation at the Southbank Centre, London (Europe's largest cultural centre). The Creative Innovation unit was imagined as a tool for introducing new partners to the organisation as well as an organisational development tool; Fellowship Director at The UK's National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) where she managed a portfolio valued at £13million; Chief Executive at the Nottingham Playhouse; and Producer (Mobile Touring) at the Royal National Theatre.
She was the inaugural Chair of the East Midlands Cultural Consortium appointed by the Secretary of State at the Department of Culture Media and Sport. Her career history has always balanced creative exploration and strategy with implementation and delivery. This has been an important balance in developing a judgement for accountability with risk. Her motivation remains good customer service, good value and positive social change and these continue to drive her as an activist.
She is or has been a Trustee of the Theatres Trust, a Member of University College London's Heritage Committee, the external examiner for UEA MA in Creative Entrepreneurship; a Governor of Guildford Conservatoire, a Council Member of Loughborough University, a Member of the Institute of Ideas and a Member of the European Cultural Parliament. She is a patron of the Asha Foundation. She has been awarded the prestigious National Asian Woman of Achievement Award for her contribution to the Arts and Culture.
Power is often vested in those that are in the elite group within a profession. It is recognised that in most professions, whether at a senior executive level or at board level, it is harder for women to reach the top. There are a host of factors for this which have been well covered by others and the Cultural and Creative industries are no exception. Of course influence can be exerted by reaching a high level, but the beauty of influence is that it does not depend on Power, even though it can be powerful, and it can emerge from any part of the creative and cultural ecology. We wanted to provide a platform for some of those women who have for a variety of reasons established themselves as thought leaders, opinion formers, exceptionally creative or entrepreneurial and through their activity have become influential. Sometimes they have been gutsy or provocative and sometimes they have just gone about their business in a confident, steady and assertive manner. They have all managed to attract a degree of attention, so here are some of those who have caught ours.
This time we profile Margriet Leemhuis, Deputy Head of Mission at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in London.
Courage is one of the essential qualities that we look for in our leaders, the courage to do the right thing even when the decisions we are faced with are tough. We all know how hard it is to operate courageously particularly when faced with vested interests or prejudicial views. There are so many levels in cultural hierarchies and in researching this series I have not always found courage where I expected. For example, maybe unsurprisingly, I have not found it in abundance in the Political class, or at Board level, but at the Grassroots level and the Executive level. I have, with your help, found 12 individuals from around the world who are profiled in this Courageous Operators Series. They have been working internationally in the cultural/creative field and have achieved something exceptional, innovative or inspirational. We want to celebrate their work and commend the fact that they have dared to be different.
The first individual we want to take our hat off to is Rex Broekman working out of Peru. Here is his story.....
Having eggs thrown at me; receiving unsettling anonymous phone calls; finding newspapers ripped to pieces on my doorstep; being yelled at in the street and receiving credit from people all over the world are just some examples of the price I am paying for being creative and innovative, but it's what I think of as being myself. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am the editor of an English-language newspaper in Huaraz, Peru. Some consider the paper to be controversial; which brings to mind the question, is it all worth it? I believe so. I am from the Netherlands, living in a Spanish-speaking, narrow-minded community, and I am obviously doing something that upsets the locals. Additionally, I live in a country where statistics are often altered, and facts are simply invented to suit the needs of the few. I, on the other hand, endeavour only to speak the truth in the hope that this little Andean city I live in can prevail.
To give you an idea of what Huaraz is like, it is located at 3,100 metres above sea level, and surrounded by towering mountains, including the Huascarán which, at 6,768 metres, is the highest mountain in Peru. This outstanding natural beauty is contrasted by numerous stray dogs, a garbage problem, alcohol and crime problems and corruption. There is more than enough to write about, and one would think the people here in Huaraz would like to see someone speaking out on their behalf. On the contrary. People don't want to read about it; many don't even want to admit there are problems. I am frequently asked why, if this place is so bad, do I not go back to my own country? The answer is simple. Every city in the world has its pros and its cons, but when change is required it is down to us to speak out. Someone has to take a stand, and fight for what is right. I truly believe that Huaraz is a nice off-the-beaten-path place to visit, but living here is a different matter as there is not much to do. This is one of the reasons why, in 2011, I started developing The Huaraz Telegraph – it gave me something to do in my spare time. Another reason for starting the paper was because thirty years ago Huaraz was Peru's third most important tourist destination after Cuzco and Lima. Nowadays Huaraz sits in 85th place, falling further every year. So what happened? Of course there are those who do not want to believe this and that is their prerogative, but I believe if one wants to change things and climb up the rankings then you can no longer ignore the facts.
The Huaraz Telegraph has the format of a newspaper, but it does not report the daily news, rather it carries articles and investigative reports that are aimed at the tourist community. Although I had no experience in creating or maintaining a newspaper, I feel I have done a good job. Tourists travelling from the north of Colombia working their way south via Huaraz said they were impressed with the non-native-made English newspaper. They liked the design and found the articles useful and interesting, and championed the high level of journalism in the paper. And although The Huaraz Telegraph is not the only English paper in South America or Peru, it´s one of a kind, so I have been told.
Constructive criticism has made the paper better over time, and now it is even more interactive than before as we encourage readers and English students in the town to contribute by writing stories or translating a poem from Quechua (the regional language) into English. The Huaraz Telegraph has been criticized in the past, but I know my place; I am an amateur working outside the vested interests - and proud of it.
On a flight back with my parents and brother and sister on-board from Iquitos (Peru) to Lima I sketched out a few rough ideas about the layout and design of the paper. At home I watched hours and hours of video tutorials and trawled the internet researching the subject of forming and maintaining a newspaper. Next I needed someone to print my paper. Of the 20 printing companies in Huaraz only three were capable of producing my paper. Of the three one refused to take my business and the other two were either too expensive or would only print in black and white. Eight hours away in Lima I finally found what I was looking for. People from Huaraz however are always surprised we have the paper printed in Lima and not Huaraz.
In April 2012 The Huaraz Telegraph was launched. We were heavily criticized for the content as well as the spelling errors and grammatical mistakes but this made us stronger as we now had something to improve on. One of the first articles we published was about the famous Santa Cruz trek that was affected by a landslide. This rocked the tourist business in Huaraz, and due to ignorance and misinformation, I as the article's author was vilified as being responsible for the downfall of Huaraz. To this day no local tourism agency has asked to advertise in The Huaraz Telegraph, which is disappointing because they could reach a wider audience now the paper is available online.
What people need to understand is that it is the job of The Huaraz Telegraph to inform and entertain. Indeed it is in the best interests of the paper (and the town) to increase tourist numbers in Huaraz, we are not trying to turn people away, or discourage them from visiting. We need them and we need their money so we can improve the city.
Huaraz has had problems for decades, and I don't believe that The Huaraz Telegraph will influence those in power to make the changes we need. Nor do I think that the articles we publish have any bearing on whether or not people visit Huaraz. I do believe that the paper provides a clear picture of what is happening here. I believe that if we reach out to enough people, one day something will click and changes will be made.
I want to keep the newspaper free. But to do this we need local businesses to buy advertising space, they need to realise that advertising is not a waste of time and money. Instead it is an investment in the future of their business as it gets their name out and about to a wider audience. We can also take international sponsorship and grants but I have not yet explored this route, however, if anyone reading this wants to support us we would be happy to hear from you. One of the possibilities could be producing a bilingual The Huaraz Telegraph, something I am looking into but this will not be easy because finding the right qualified people in Huaraz is a mission impossible. Quality costs money and will most likely mean that I will need to bring in people from Lima. A bilingual newspaper can reach a much greater readership which would be ideal for every party involved.
Just recently, I have also been co-hosting a television program called No toque su televisor (Don´t Touch Your Television) on a local TV channel called Canal Tres - Cable Andino. We discuss social and political issues as well as talking about some of the articles that have been published in the paper. The programme is broadcasted live and lasts half an hour where my co-host and I share our differences with the viewers. The idea of the director of the channel was to have two distinctive people living in the same place (Huaraz), discussing everything that´s important in the city. There is a certain freedom as topics are chosen by us and like the newspaper, we are looking for interaction with the viewers as during the broadcast spectators can call to the programme and join the discussion live on TV. I have become good friends with the director of the channel and he has even asked me if I can look into his programmes, although I laughed maybe a little bit too hard when he admitted there were only 5 programmes produced at the moment but who knows what the future brings. The channel also runs a small magazine with some smaller articles and I got the impression that he wants me to do that as well, although I have postponed a decision until February.
On first coming to Peru as a tourist in 2005 I could never have imagined that eight years later I would be married, teaching at a university, editor of a newspaper, or co-hosting a television program. The Huaraz Telegraph has undoubtedly made me the most well-known and unpopular 'gringo' in town, but I am confident that there are people out there who respect my honesty and willingness to speak out, and believe that our investigations and articles will indeed bring about a change of attitude in Huaraz.
The Huarez Telegraph is available to read online at www.thehuaraztelegraph.com
During September 2013 art as universal text will be explored as a central theme to the 9th Kaunas Biennale and these high standard events are greatly supported offering the potential for future international dialogue.
It's really great that this Journal is now being read in 106 countries and that we are now receiving content from many of them, which we will be able to share in the coming weeks.
I am working on three new series. The first is Creative Cities which looks at different Cities in the Commonwealth and why they are burgeoning creatively. There will be 12 cities and so far we have selected 9, so if you have suggestions or want to write about your city then do get in touch. The second series is about women who are working internationally who have made a clear contribution and a real difference to their creative field. Again I'm working on a series of 12 and so far I have 8 profiles in the pipeline. The third series is really inspiring and, as mentioned in my recent Peruvian blog, will profile creative individuals who are doing something daring and innovative in their part of the world, often against the odds.
This is an important and very useful contribution to the public policy debate around large-scale events. It has encouraged me to reflect on my experience of large-scale events and programmes as a practitioner and policy maker in a way that only the best books do. Crucially, it approaches the questions from the point of view of the policy implications and the Political and social implications. With a general concern in this genre on management, these angles have been missing from the public or academic arena and therefore this book distinguishes itself in content and quality from others.
The book is set out clearly, divided into parts and bite sized chapters with chapter summaries and pointers to other resources. This gives a clue that it is organised for the academic reader, but this is also essential reading for anyone involved or who wants to be involved in national agencies or national and regional bodies considering large events. The case studies give colour and life to what might otherwise be a dry discourse and they highlight the theoretical points made in the wider context.
Part 1 deals with three areas: The rationale for large events, their form and function and their capacity for economic and social regeneration of urban environments. The authors have drawn on data collected through monitoring and evaluation from the bodies charged with the delivery of such events. This in itself inadvertently highlights that public investment in these is highly contestable and there is continued pressure on such bodies to justify investments for Political purposes.
This section raises key questions for me that are not then fully unpacked. Either because evaluation does not exist or they enter the realm of subjective philosophical debate that may not be the overall purpose the authors intended. However, these questions, I posit would be essential and more engaging for the advanced reader. For example, the book talks about events in a 'pre-industrial and a 'post-industrial' era, but by 'post-industrial' do they really mean in an era where Capitalism dominates? Where in order to justify themselves events are increasingly removed from the people and grass roots social involvement in favour of a formulaic approach for the purposes of generating sponsorship income, brand value and more tourist revenue. How does this approach relate to the ethics of large-scale events? Where once they were in community ownership (with all the associated messy complexity and diversity) many now reflect the dominant social norms, or even a culture manipulated for the brand image that a country wants to promote. What do we think about this? These tensions reveal themselves further in the examples drawn from say Dubai and Singapore. I am lucky enough (or old enough!) to have experienced the Thaipusam festival in Singapore first-hand in the 1960's, when it was a chaotic, visceral and a clearly spiritual experience. Now, and as this book examines it, it is a branded sanitised event, one of many in a crowded Singapore Government calendar that is driven by national or 'city boosterism' which is a relatively recent phenomena and one that the book discusses. When events are hijacked from the community in this way or used for propaganda purposes, one might end up with the positive regenerative effects of say, investing in rebuilding parts (and only parts) of New Orleans, or one may end up with the display of extreme ideology such as that of the Olympics of the Nazi era. So what do we think about this?
The book refers to these large events as being seen as Cultural Diplomacy but really only in terms of National Branding and then makes no detailed further examination of this. Is it acceptable in terms of diplomacy that the human rights issues in China and Tibet are ignored in favour of big business getting an 'in' to the Chinese market? Is it acceptable that Dubai promotes large-scale racing events yet at the same time pays migrant workers a pittance to construct and deliver them? And has notably draconian labour laws for these workers? Subsequently can the brand values of the big corporations (and I include the International Olympic Committee and FIFA in these) that 'own' these events remain intact? Sometimes the issues are far more practical, for example, is it fair that the Edinburgh International Festival performers are exempt from the visa process applied to other festivals in Scotland because the festival is heavily sponsored by the Scottish Government? Is it fair that the London Olympics was sold to the IOC on the ticket of celebrating diversity when the power brokers of the cultural and sporting elite in England are far from diverse? And when tickets for the showpiece events are not subsequently available to the diversity of the population? These practical and moral dilemmas (which are all too often dismissed or remain un-discussed by the Politicians) are the real dilemmas of international cultural policy and Cultural Diplomacy and in this book they are not examined. This places the book at the intermediate policy level rather than the most strategic policy level. And points up the main agencies and politicians concern with matters that ensure successful implementation of the events rather than concern with success in policy terms. We need intellectual discussion on these issues and a book that places itself as international and does not tackle these questions could be judged as neatly reinforcing itself as a book by academics for academics.
Further on the book examines in more detail the main themes and uses more examples to look at the realities of branding, entrepreneurial event policies and events as catalysts for visitor numbers and so forth. It examines the impact on Civic pride (though this can be self-fulfilling) and it acknowledges that the social benefits are less well defined and less tangible and that there are winners and losers in this top down model. It doesn't reflect on whether income generation or social and individual benefit are more or less valid reasons for continued public support? Nor does it discuss the kind of evidence that might reveal public opinion on this, which directly relates to civic pride. It avoids reference to the land issues or individual rights to access issues to sites or their commercial annexes at national or community level, which are unseen social consequences of these large events and are matters of public policy. Finally, although the book places itself internationally and uses a range of international examples, there are notable parts of the globe (where post-industrial gatherings happen) that are missing, for example China, the Caribbean and the bulk of the African continent. Disappointingly, despite the international examples, the book is not written with an international sensibility and this reveals itself throughout.
In summary, this book is an original and bold addition to the examination of events and their associated cultural policy. Despite the issues I raise above, I took pleasure from this book. It is unintentionally provocative, useful, and in my view should be an essential read for anyone who wants to be or considers themselves to be a serious operator in the creative and cultural sector. It lays a sound and rich foundation for further questions for the more sophisticated reader. Towards the end of the book, the authors venture tentatively into more nebulous or controversial policy territories and perhaps deliberately and tantalisingly hint at a further publication where they may have the courage to discuss the resulting issues head on. I hope so and I for one look forward to it.