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The last Arts event of the 2016/17 Season in May was a departure from the usual lecture pattern – a “Question Time” style discussion panel to debate: Powerhouse or Poorhouse: What is the future for the Arts in Manchester?  

The event was chaired by Felicity Goodey CBE and the Panel comprised  Wyllie Longmore, Nick Merriman, Dave Moutrey,  David Thacker and Eleanor Underhill.  You can learn more about them from their profiles below. 

This lively debate was held at the newly opened Stoller Hall, at Chetham’s School of Music, with special guest Sir Norman Stoller, who funded the Hall, amongst members of the audience. The event was preceded by an excellent short performance by students from Chetham’s, and afterwards a buffet supper enabled members of the audience to mingle with the guest members of the panel, to continue the discussion.

The idea for the discussion was triggered by the Northern Powerhouse proposal as well as an article by a distinguished Art critic who wondered if Manchester really needed any more culture, and indeed the panel not only gave impassioned arguments in favour of supporting more arts ventures in Manchester and the wider region–including other cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle–but also suggestions as to how this should take shape. The stimulating debate looked at issues such as Arts funding being very London-centric – and how Manchester and the other northern regions might stem this flow;  how to redress the consequences of Arts education in schools being run down; and how to reach out to engage some in the community who often feel that the Arts is a charmed circle that excludes them.

There were certainly points of disagreement and challenge within the panel but they were united in their belief to continue the work to keep the Arts accessible to all regardless of personal circumstances; to encourage further engagement in the community; and to support arts at the grassroots level as well as the better-funded or higher culture organisations. We hope that all those that attended the debate took these important points away with them to consider their future endeavours, whether as visitors, performers or organisers.

Photos from the event can be viewed here: Event Photos.

Panel Profiles

Chair – Felicity Goodey CBE

Felicity Goodey shaped and led the project which has relocated a major part of the BBC from London to Salford and the North of England.  She headed the team which won a fiercely contested bid for the BBC and on the back of it created ‘mediacity’, the biggest purpose built digital media centre in the UK. She led the team which designed, built and ran The Lowry, an international theatre and arts complex which has helped attract £1.5 billion private investment to Greater Manchester and contributes more than £ 29 million to the local economy annually. She set up and chaired the UKs largest urban regeneration company, Central Salford, which secured a further  £2.5 billion of private sector investment in 5 years. She was a founder director of the Northwest Development Agency, chairing the Tourism team which helped turn the region into a £ 14.5 billion tourism destination; founded and chaired the successful Cultural Consortium for the Northwest and was awarded a CBE for services to regeneration and the arts.

Her career began with the BBC. Experience as a senior correspondent specialising in industry and politics, together with a business career in media and education services, provided the foundations for developing and leading major public/private projects.  She currently chairs the Buxton Festival described by the Metropolitan Opera of New York as ‘One of Europe’s great little unmissable European Opera Festivals’; and by the Observer as ‘' A happy marriage of music , opera and books’!

Wyllie Longmore

Wyllie Longmore was born in Jamaica and has been resident in England since 1961.  He trained at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama as an actor and a teacher and both these disciplines have informed his working life.

As an actor he has worked in Theatre in Education, in rep across the country and at the Royal National Theatre. He also has considerable experience in radio and television and as a director.

As a teacher he has worked in school, with youth and community groups, in drama schools and in the Department of Drama at Manchester University. He was the first Head of Acting at The Arden School of Theatre, a post he held from 1991 - 2002.

He has been an External Examiner at Salford and Thames Valley Universities; an advisor for the Arts Council and a member of ACE Regional Council Northwest from 2008 - 2012. He was Chair of Contact from 1997 - 2007 and has served on the boards of the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Greater Manchester Arts Centre (HOME).  He currently chairs PANDA (Performing Arts Network and Development Agency) in Manchester.

Dr Nick Merriman

Nick Merriman was appointed as Director of the Manchester Museum in March 2006. Since then he has focused its mission on promoting understanding between cultures and working towards a sustainable world and has overseen the refurbishment of most of the Museum’s permanent galleries. This, together with a major programme of public engagement, has led to a doubling of the Museum’s visitor numbers to 450,000 a year.

Prior to moving to Manchester, Nick Merriman was Director of Museums & Collections, and Reader in Museum Studies, at University College London, for 8 years. During this time, he developed new courses in museum and heritage studies, and created a new university-wide museum service. From 2004-6 he was a part time Fellow on the Clore Leadership Programme, undertaking a bespoke scheme of training and development in cultural leadership.

Nick began his career at the Museum of London in 1986, as Curator of Prehistory and subsequently Head of the Department of Early London History and Collections. While there, he led a pioneering project called ‘The Peopling of London’ which told the story of the capital’s cultural diversity from ancient times to the present. He studied archaeology at Cambridge University, and his PhD, on widening participation in museums, was published as ‘Beyond The Glass Case’. He has published widely on museum studies topics, was Chair of the International Council of Museums (UK) from 2001-2004, President of the Council for British Archaeology from 2005-2008, Chair of the University Museums Group from 2009-2013, Convenor of the Museums Association’s Ethics Committee 2008-2014 and is currently Chair of the Collections Trust.

Dave Moutrey

Dave Moutrey is Chief Executive and Director of HOME,

formed from the merger of Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company in 2012 and he led the project to create the new purpose built venue that opened a year ago in May 2015.

HOME includes 5 cinema screens, education spaces, digital production and broadcast facilities, a 500 seat theatre, 150 seat flexible theatre, 500m2 gallery space, café bar, restaurant, offices and other ancillary spaces consistent with a production centre. It is a ‘making place’, providing new opportunities for artists and audiences to create work in a different way together, as well as a social and cultural hub.

Throughout his career, Dave has been involved in the leadership, management and marketing of arts organisations. He played a leading role in establishing the Cinema Arts Network, a national network of cross artform venues; spent eight years as Chief Executive of Arts About Manchester (now the Audience Agency); worked for two years as Marketing Director for City of Drama; and managed Abraham Moss Theatre for six years. Dave is also a qualified drama teacher and was until recently a practicing artist and theatre producer, with experience of over 30 community productions with Greater Manchester-based groups.

Dave is a Fellow for the Royal Society of Arts, a member of the Chartered Management Institute and a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

David Thacker

David Thacker was Artistic Director of the Octagon Theatre Bolton from 2009 until 2015 when he stepped down to take up the post of Professor of Theatre at the University of Bolton, taking on the new role of Associate Artistic Director at the Octagon. 

David has been an extraordinarily prolific director during his time at the Octagon directing thirty one productions as Artistic Director and three since as Associate Artistic Director.

During this time the Octagon has enhanced its regional and national reputation for the quality of its work. At this year's Manchester Theatre Awards his productions (including 'An Enemy of the People' and 'A View from the Bridge') received six awards including, all the major acting awards (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Ensemble) and Best Production (An Enemy of the People). This is the first time that any director has achieved this in the history of the Manchester Theatre Awards and their predecessor, The Manchester Evening News Awards. David Thacker also received a personal achievement award for his outstanding achievements as Artistic Director.

David's first major role in British theatre was as Artistic Director of the Duke's Playhouse, Lancaster - at the time the youngest Artistic Director in the country. His success there led him to be appointed as Director of the Young Vic. During that time he was well known for his accessible and contemporary productions of Shakespeare and developed his well-documented close relationship with Arthur Miller, directing eleven of his plays in fifteen productions at the Young Vic, the National Theatre, the Octagon Theatre Bolton, in the USA, Israel and for the BBC.

From the Young Vic he moved to the RSC as Director-in-Residence where he directed nine productions including 'Pericles' for which he was awarded two Olivier Awards.

He then moved into television drama directing over 30 television films for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and WGBH Boston in the USA, including his critically acclaimed film of 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and 'Faith' set in the 1985/5 Miners' Strike.

Eleanor Underhill

Eleanor Underhill works for the National Trust as the General Manager of Quarry Bank near Wilmslow, the site of one of the first cotton mills in the country, now run as a heritage site and visitor attraction. She’s worked for the National Trust for seven years.  Before this Eleanor worked in the local newspaper business, initially in advertising and operational roles, and latterly as the Managing Director of the Cheshire Guardian Series; but the demise of the local newspaper industry led her to seek a career change. Eleanor initially studied History at York University and is now relishing her involvement in a site of such historic importance, at an exciting time in its development, with a major £10m Heritage Lottery Funded project currently being delivered on site.