What was your first break in business?
It wasn’t my first ‘break’ in business but something that proved a significant moment in my career was when, after 20 years running art institutions in the Netherlands, I took time out to do the Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy at London Business School. It was a conscious decision to build a future in the UK for my wife – who is from Northern Ireland – my children and me.
What did you want to be growing up?
When I was growing up I wanted to become an architect. I come from a family of successful architects – so it was in my blood. At the crucial moment when I had to choose which subject to take at university, I switched to Art History as I was interested in the way that contemporary art engaged with the world. This appealed to me on a social and political level while it offered scope for advocacy and activism.
What attracted you to your current role?
I knew Tyneside Cinema to be a very agile organisation that had managed to seize opportunities that had come its way. I saw opportunities to build on this, grow the organisation and take film education and production to the next level.
What is your organisation’s mission?
Tyneside Cinema’s mission is to inspire, entertain and transform people through its programmes. My ambition is to take inspiration from Tyneside Cinema’s early years as a Newsreel cinema; to continue informing our audience about events in the world and bring a more engaged strand into the programming with curated programmes of films and documentaries that address the big global and societal issues – from poverty and inequality to civil rights, from human rights to environmental degradation and climate change. By engaging academics and specialists to contextualise the issues with introductions and panel discussions, we want to develop Tyneside Cinema into a civic platform for discussion while continuing to build on its strength as an independent cinema that brings audiences the best new releases in art house and quality film.
How do you get the best out of your team?
I believe in empowering people through the responsibility that you give them. By giving people space to help shape the organisation and think about how to structure it, you can create highly effective teams with a sense of ownership and accountability required to deliver quality and be successful.
What has been your career highlight?
There have been good moments along the way but I believe my career highlight is yet to come, undoubtedly here at Tyneside Cinema.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is right ahead of us. Brexit poses a huge challenge for the UK and it’s important for leaders to prepare for the impact this will have. For an organisation that depends on revenues from the box office for film and from food sales the challenges are compounding. If we start sliding into a recession with all associated inflation and loss of spending power, cinemas are likely to suffer as people can easily economise by eating at home and waiting until new film releases become available on Netflix. For Tyneside Cinema to be able to continue bringing the best first run releases to the North East, we will have to prepare ourselves by diversifying our revenue streams and creating economies of scale.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired when I see people, especially young people, engage with the pressing issues of our day, whether political, social or economic – and finding inspiration to help create a better ‘common’ world.
What are your organisation’s short and long-term goals?
Tyneside Cinema has been a Newcastle institution since 1937 and this year we are celebrating the 80th anniversary with programmes of films and activities that reflect and build upon our rich history. The referendum on EU membership has taught us that we can’t leave discussions about important issues to politicians or the media. It is pertinent that these discussions take place where people congregate, and especially in cinemas, where we can use the medium of film and especially documentary to properly introduce the issues and inform the discussion. I would like to see Tyneside Cinema become that platform for discussion about issues that matter. In the medium term I would like ensure that we turn our pop-up film school into an important film school that is fully integrated into the fabric of our organisation and in the longer term that we progress from producing short films and documentaries to the production of full-length documentaries and feature films.
How do you achieve a good work/life balance?
I’m in the very fortunate position that I love my work and am able to incorporate a variety of interests that are important in my life. Life and work are intrinsically linked. Whenever I’m away from the office, I’m often reading and researching, or attending events that inspire my work.