She worked with many great artists including Kenneth Branagh, Vanessa Redgrave, Gore Vidal, Richard Wentworth and Max Wall. From there she joined Sir Terence Conran’s team at The Design Museum.
She was headhunted to join the marketing team at Time Out and was quickly promoted to Marketing Director and then to Group Marketing Director working across Time Out Guides,
In 2004, she co-founded Manchester International Festival, along side Alex Poots. She has been the Managing Director for the past 16 years. She steps down in March 2021 to pursue more personal projects and collaborations.
1. What has been your Best Life Project to date?
My best personal life project to date has been my son. He is 21 years old and bursting with life, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit. He’s studying psychology at Newcastle Uni, loves boxing and is a part time model. I keep pointing out those last two things aren’t good bedfellows. He is open, friendly and, best of all, makes me laugh.
In my professional life, it would have to be Manchester International Festival (MIF). We have been artist-led since we started out in 2005 and from the very beginning the vision has been to create 18 extraordinary days of world premieres and special events, building on Manchester’s history of innovation. We were determined on delivering success for the city and the region and it’s been so life affirming to see how important it’s become – economically, artistically and as a destination for residents and visitors. Plus it’s set the way for The Factory, the fantastic new arts space that will be MIF’s future home.
2. The unknown … what challenges did you have to overcome?
I found it incredibly hard when my mum died to carry on with life as it had been before. I loved my mum so much and she had such a cruel end with cancer which tormented me for a very long time. She genuinely was my best friend – both my mum and dad did that incredible thing of setting me free when I was growing up, but at the same time being there whenever I needed them to be. They were so proud of me, especially when I went to work in London, and I swear everyone in Blackburn knew my every movement when I used to travel abroad when working at Time Out. Time has helped me overcome the sadness as I was gradually able to focus on all the lovely things my mum and I did together, rather than concentrating my thoughts on the last six months of her life.
3. In hindsight…..what would you do differently?
I’m an obsessive and in many ways a perfectionist too. I also have a forensic eye for detail, so I think sometimes I must be hard to be around as I always want everything to be better than one might expect. I have such high expectations of people and experiences too. Compromise isn’t something that sits well with me. I would rather do far less and do it well. I know there have been many people who have worked closely with me over the years whose lives have been changed as a result. For example, they might not be able to simply go to a restaurant anymore and just enjoy the experience as they’ll be taking in the lighting, acoustics, interior design, food and drink, price, music, service, clientele…. and so the list goes on. Sorry to all of you out there!
4. Next steps…
I am now the proud owner of a 8-month-old puppy beautiful black cocker spaniel called Roca. I plan to go on long walks with him and to enjoy getting lost as I have zero sense of direction. After 15 years at MIF, six months ago I decided to leave and I do so in March. I still passionately care about what I helped create but feel the time is right for me to have some time back for myself first and foremost and then create my own company ‘CC&friends’ working on projects I care about with people I admire. A little idealistic perhaps but that’s my plan. I will continue my long association with MIF & The Factory working on special projects – hard not to be involved in some way, it’s in my DNA.
5. From lockdown ……what lifestyle changes has lockdown made you consider?
Lockdown has made me reassess what is important, and I now strive for a new version of my life which is stripped back of complexity but full of love and kindness. I now want to get back to basics and focus on things I am both good at and enjoy doing.
6. Kissing frogs …. is there an unexpected person who has helped you and, if so, how did they do it?
Tony Elliott, owner and founder of Time Out, and now sadly deceased was one of the most influential figures in my life. I worked with him for 13 years when I was in London and we remained close since then and he and his lovely wife Janey became supporters of MIF. He cared about every last detail and was obsessive about information and now I am too. He totally believed in me, as I did him, and was a great person to discuss business with when the direction forward wasn’t always clear. I miss him so much and even writing this makes me well up!
7. My Inspiration ….who or what inspires you?
I’ve always drawn inspiration from people around me whether they be family, artists, colleagues or friends. The team at MIF are inspiring – they care so much about what we do, work incredibly hard and are so smart – that’s inspiring.
8. How do you relax or do you struggle to relax?
I meditate and have finally got good at it. In the beginning, my thoughts would go in a million different directions and I found it difficult to stop that happening. With time I have learnt to zone everything else out and completely focus on the meditation session. I try to meditate every day now.
9. Guilty secret pleasure?
I love floral gums – it’s like eating small bits of perfume! Very much an acquired taste and hard to come by these days.
10. Words of wisdom
Be kind to others and through time I have learnt it’s important to be kind to yourself too. I was brought up to consider how your actions impact other people and have always tried to be mindful of this both personally and professionally.