Kelly: How would you describe yourself to others in a few sentences?
Carol: Well, on my Twitter profile I describe myself as: ‘Instigator, treacle-walker, finder of things. Audience architect with a penchant for three full stops…” Sometimes people ask me what I mean by treacle-walker and I suppose it’s about finding yourself in difficult, sticky situations and instead of getting stuck somehow pushing your way through.
Kelly: How would you describe your work?
Carol: No two days are the same and that’s part of what I love about working at Chapter. It’s also true to say that the challenges never stop, there’s always something to learn and it’s a huge privilege to be surrounded by incredibly creative people who want to make things happen.
Kelly: What is your proudest achievement or moment?
Carol: I’m interested in social spaces and how they can drive forward arts businesses not just financially but creatively. Chapter is all about vibrant art alongside community relevance and we have deep-seated values of collaboration, openness, accessibility and sustainability. Much of this stems from the early vision to bring performance, film, and exhibitions together under one roof united by a dynamic social space.
I’m incredibly proud of reclaiming and driving through the social space agenda in Chapter’s redevelopment a few years ago. It acts as a catalyst for creative entrepreneurs and independents to meet, discuss and collaborate, it’s also a vibrant platform for everything from social media surgeries, book clubs, games event but also it’s a real hub where people come to chat and just enjoy themselves. Chapter has become known for this welcoming, open space and the combination of radical new work that coexists with our many diverse users.
You can walk into Chapter at any time of time, on any day of the week and we’re always busy and buzzing and full of the widest mix of people…and yes, this makes me proud, very proud indeed.
Kelly: What has failure and success taught you?
Carol: Success has taught me very little. It feels good at the time but it’s important to keep pushing forward, making changes, adapting and growing. Having a tolerance for failing though gives you a great freedom to try things out, experiment and innovate. I love the idea of fail often, fail fast, fail cheap, fail forward. Hmm. I don’t want to say I fail all the time but I do like experimenting and trying things out… and every now and then things go wrong. Winston Churchill said: ‘Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with losing your enthusiasm .” And that’s really key for me – it’s about being constantly curious and having fun.
Kelly: What is your biggest moment of life change?
Carol: Three words. Red. Velvet. Cupcakes.
Kelly: Is the glass half empty of half full?
Carol: Oh I’m the eternal optimist. Annoyingly so I’m sure some would say.
Kelly: What book would you recommend others to read or video talk to watch?
Carol: I’m a big fan of Charles Leadbeater and his book on mass participation and innovation, “We-Think” is a riveting read. It’s big, bold and ballsy thinking and throws out a challenge to work collaboratively. I love Ted Talks (who doesn’t) and I’ve got the app on my phone. I love dipping into the videos when I’ve got a spare moment. I’d recommend one by Arianna Huffington about the importance of women literally sleeping their way to the top.
Kelly: What advice would you give to people working in Arts Communications today?
Carol: Be curious, play with things, don’t be afraid to take ideas from different sectors and use them in an arts environment. Be fierce. (OK, I’m far too old to use that expression but you know what I mean.)
Kelly: What advice would you give women thinking about a career in the Arts today?
Carol: Don’t just think about, do it. It can be difficult to get a foot in the door but practical experience makes a huge difference and is prepared to go in at the bottom and work your way up.
Kelly: What do you feel/think about social media in your life and work? (I’ve got to ask a geeky question.)
Carol: Well, I’m a bit of a closet geek and a lover of shiny things. I’m happy to get in the queue at 5am for the latest iPhone for instance. I’m not an obsessive tweeter but can’t really imagine a world where it doesn’t exist. I have far too many apps for my own good. My favorite at the moment is a research project app called Mappiness – it’s investigating how people’s happiness is affected by their local environment. Of course, it’s completely changed, I’d probably say revolutionised, the work I do. The ability to respond in such an immediate and personal way with our customers has made us totally rethink and re-prioritise what we do.
Kelly: What do you want to share, and inspire in others if you ran a workshop, gave a talk, or wrote a book?
Carol: It would be back to social spaces and the need to give people places to belong, to be creative, to just have fun.
Kelly: What is important for you for learning?
Carol: Being prodded, provoked and intrigued by inspiring people who think in different ways.
Kelly: Carol, your wit, fun and love of social spaces inspires me. Chapter supported my friends, my work and my life in so many ways. For me (and I am sure many social entrepreneurs), the social digital world we live in hasn’t (and won’t) replace our social spaces of meaning, like Chapter; but instead, continue to align with them through the presence of people … breathing fire into their belly and life into their soul.