Clore Leadership Fellowship and Post Fellowship 


In 2018/2019 I took a ‘productive pause’ after 27 years as a volunteer and staff team member at Glasgow Women’s Library to undertake a Clore Fellowship. You can get a flavour of the wide range of activities, visits and collaborations I undertook during a packed seven months of intense learning here. The Fellowship gave me time to think about my contribution to the GWL story and the other ways I had ‘lived my feminist life’, and what I might demand of myself going forward.

At the heart of the cluster of questions I wanted to grapple with during Clore were: What have I been doing? What have I learnt over that past 40 years or so – as an activist, as a feminist, a collaborator and as someone who has fought for and brought new organisations and cultural groups (at some personal cost and also with much joy!) into the world? What do I need to learn more about cultural and creative (Feminist) Leadership? 

As I became involved in Clore, and learnt more about the deep and seemingly intractable inequalities in the sector, as well as the wealth of different ways the counter culture has been developed, the questions became more complex, the issues more contested and the questions more compelling: 

What is intersectional feminist leadership? Why, in the growing ‘industry’ of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (in training, consultation, communications about EDI from the big, Established, often London-centric power base of cultural institutions etc.), is the word feminism rarely mentioned? What is it that prevents leaders in the cultural sector, even those who are champions of equality, from using the F word to describe their approaches? Are feminist organisations doomed to be critiqued for being either models of the ‘Tyranny of Structurelessness’ or co-opted versions of the ‘Command and Control’ Failed Leadership model? Is feminist leadership itself a contradiction in terms? These and other dilemmas, which I summarise in this video, are some of the questions I went on to  research, supported by Post Fellowship Clore Leadership and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding and supervised by Helena Reckitt, Reader of Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London.

One of the most effective ways of self-reflecting is, of course, to find out more about how others think and work. For me this meant taking full advantage of the remarkable life knowledges, lived experiences and professional insights of the Clore Cohort 2018/2019 and also meeting people, seeing things, and connecting with feminist and countercultural institutions across the world. In this research with others including feminist ‘elders’ and colleagues working within the mainstream I was keen to interrogate :what are the key qualities that make for sustainable, ethical ways of working and how can I intuit this through learning lessons from the past and from new initiatives? This work of learning and knowledge exchange, writing, reading and thinking about feminist leadership is ongoing and I am active working on a publication.

In May 2020 during the pandemic I was invited to produce a film to share amongst cultural leaders. Watch it here.