Opera North and the University of Leeds seek to address skills shortages in the cultural sector by building accredited practice-based professional development programmes.  

In the past three years, two programmes have been developed, in Arts Fundraising and in Music Education.

Arts Fundraising Fellowships:  a twelve-month practice-based traineeship at the heart of a cultural organisation

A casual conversation between the heads of cultural organisations in the North in 2011 resulted in the launch of the UK’s first practice-based arts fundraising traineeship in 2013, accredited by the University of Leeds.

In its first two years the programme generated over £450,000 new fundraising income in the North alone.

The model, created in response to a shared challenge in recruiting arts fundraisers in the region, informed the creation of the Arts Council funded Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy (AFP) initiative and by October 2016 will have supported the career development of fifty five graduates nationally.  The broader AFP programme is delivered in partnership with agencies countrywide and project managed by London-based Cause4.

The process of developing the framework, testament to pro-active, cross -organisational partnership working, was straight forward because it directly responded to a business need of the four founding partners, Opera North, Sage Gateshead, Tate Liverpool and Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM).

Each Fellow, selected through a competitive process, is appointed to a Host organisation for twelve months.  The organisation commits to invest their fundraising expertise in their Fellow, creating opportunities for the Fellow to make a meaningful contribution to their fundraising strategy through involvement in the many facets of fundraising.  This is complemented by frequent external training, and supported by a mentor.

It costs about £30,000 per Fellowship in the North, which includes the fellow’s bursary (60%) plus training and other costs.  Each Host organisation contributes £10,000, with the remaining £20,000 funded by Arts Council through a Transforming Arts Fundraising Grant.

Collaboration with the University of Leeds from the outset ensured a robust academic foundation upon which the hands-on learning programme is built.  Successful assessment of written work based on Fellow’s experience at the Host organisation, and participation in the UK’s first assessment Summer School for Arts Fundraising & Leadership results on the award of a Post-Graduate Certificate in Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy.

Now in its third year, the Fellowship programme has proved a win for the Fellow, the host and the sector.  As Gaby Styles, former Head of Development at Tate Liverpool says:

“As well as Bex making a significant contribution, including working on a new individual giving strategy and organising our first Legacy event, Tate Liverpool’s fundraising team has benefited from what she has learned through external training and networking”

With designated areas of accountability and ambitious income targets, the first nine Fellows in the North were directly responsible for raising over £450,000 additional fundraising income for their Host organisations.

Each Fellow has progressed to a fundraising role in the arts, at organisations including national institutions, community arts and freelance work.

In the programme’s first year in the North, Fellows were hosted at Opera North, Sage Gateshead, RNCM, and Tate Liverpool.  In year two at Hull Truck Theatre; Liverpool Biennial; Liverpool Philharmonic, Opera North and York Theatre Royal.  In 2015-16 Fellows are based at the Halle in Manchester; Phoenix Dance Theatre in Leeds; Mind the Gap in Bradford; New Writing North in Newcastle; and Royal Exchange Manchester.

Pettman DARE Scholarship in Music Education.  Professional Development originating in the North of England, with international impact.

A partnership between Opera North, the University of Leeds, New Zealand Opera and the Auckland University. 

The value of music education in inspiring and improving the lives of young people is recognised in the UK and New Zealand, yet each country faces challenges.

In New Zealand there the opportunities to participate in music education activity are limited and there is a shortage of the experience required to plan and deliver it.  New Zealand Opera, with its national status, and the University of Auckland, seek to do something about it.

In the UK there isn’t a strong framework within which to develop the skills required. The role demands more than good performance ability and opportunities to acquire necessary experience in a structured way are rare.  In addition, expertise tends to gravitate to London, creating paucity in the North.

Opera North and the University of Leeds are working in partnership to respond to this need.

The Pettman DARE Scholarship programme in Music Education was created in 2015 by Opera North and the University of Leeds in partnership with New Zealand Opera and Auckland University.  It focuses on the development of world-class Music Education skills, particularly in opera, equipping Scholars with the experience and ability to plan and develop high-quality initiatives in and with communities and schools.

The initiative is fully funded by philanthropists Prof Barrie and Mrs Maureen Pettman, who are committed to supporting work that impact on the lives of young people through music.  Their donation will fund ten Scholarships up to 2020.

For a total of twelve months, two Scholars each year, one from New Zealand and one from the EU (just one in 2015, from New Zealand), train simultaneously at the heart of Opera North Education for three days a week, whilst participating in appropriate modules at the University of Leeds for two days.  They have the option to work towards a Post-Grad Diploma, or Post-Grad Certificate in ‘Performing Arts Education’.

Scholars gain an in-depth appreciation of Opera North and the ways in which it makes a difference to the lives of young people, with a focus on the development and application of opera education skills and extensive practical experience in the role.  They work on live projects and have direct responsibility for identified initiatives such as the concerts programme on tour and enabling orchestral players to have a more hands-on relationship with communities outside the theatre and concert hall.

The NZ Scholar returns to New Zealand for the final three months of the programme, to plan and deliver activity at New Zealand Opera and Auckland University.

Evaluation of the programme is difficult at this stage, since the first ‘graduate’, Gemma Lee, has just completed her Scholarship.  See her blog for a glimpse of the project she planned and delivered at New Zealand Opera, and here for an insight into her Scholarship experience in the UK.


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