As part of our campaign to #BuildBackFairer, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the movers and shakers working in the creative and cultural sector and asking them to share their insight and advice for those at the start of their careers.
Based in the north east, Leila d’Aronville has worked in the cultural sector for over 15 years. She is currently the Managing Director for music promotion and development agency, Northern Roots, Founder of the Tyne and Wear Cultural Freelancers Network and Vice Chair of Newcastle Cultural Compact. Leila features in episode four of our #BuildBackFairer podcast exploring diversity in the cultural sector.
Tell us one thing about your job/occupation that we probably don’t know about?
You don’t need to be an artist to work in the arts!
What’s the biggest challenge facing your sector right now?
I think there is a real challenge around our workforce – specifically the mental health of our workforce. As a sector we are hardworking and passionate – this is both a blessing and a curse. It means people plough emotion into their work. The by-product of this is blurred boundaries, high internal expectations, overworking and damaged mental health. The pandemic has compounded this. When the sector stopped, it wasn’t just people’s work that was paused, it was also their identities as creatives. Most people have pivoted so many times they don’t know which way is up. If we then think about this in relation to people marginalised by the structures we work with in – we have the retraumatising of the black community through the murdering of George Floyd on camera (and so many other black men and women); the opening up and closing down of spaces for disabled people; front line poorly paid workers being used as cannon fodder; and women’s rights being set back decades due to us taking on more caring responsibilities during the pandemic. In addition we have 2 years’ worth of school leavers and university graduates entering the workforce during a pandemic, after completing their studies in less than ideal conditions.
In the cultural sector we also know a significant number of our workforce work in precarious employment – either as freelancers, independents, or on zero-hour contracts. These people are often people who are marginalised by systems and structures anyway.
We need to work HARD against this to make sure it doesn’t make our sector more closed off and elitist.
If you could give your 16-year-old self some career advice, what would it be?
Lean into uncertainty and risk, it is fine, and things are more exciting because of it! Never underestimate yourself.
What’s been the most surprising moment of your career journey so far?
This question is far too hard. I have had some big experiences that have been amazing and magical and life-changing – personally and for the people who have connected to the work. Although I have had all of these big moments, I guess the most surprising thing is the quiet moments are the most rewarding; working with an artist and seeing them have a light bulb moment; supporting someone to get some funding which will make a real difference to them; watching collaboration happen organically in spaces I have created.
Who’s your professional hero?
Argh these questions are too hard! I think it has to be anyone who holds their morals and values at their core.
Follow Leila on Twitter to find out more about her work.