10 Questions: Jim Mawdsley

April 2, 2018

Jim Mawdsley has had a dual career – having spent 30 years in live music, he was one of the driving forces behind the Evolution Festival and Shindig. He has also been CEO of Generator, the North East’s sector specialist development agency for the creative, digital, and music industries, having originally joined the organisation in 1998. In 2015, Generator acquired Digital Union, which seeks to build, represent and support the North East digital cluster

What was your first break in business?

I got a chance to be the Ents Officer at Newcastle Poly back in 1987, which I grabbed with both hands. It was part baptism of fire, part apprenticeship, as I was immediately booking bands like The Ramones, Pixies, Deacon Blue and put on some great early gigs from bands such as the Happy Mondays. I also learned how to run club nights for 2000 people, which was useful.

What did you want to be growing up?

I didn’t really know but I was in a band despite being a terrible singer. From the age of 17 I wanted to get a job in live music and saw Newcastle as a developing scene. Most of my friends at the time laughed at this ambition until they realised I was good for free tickets.

What attracted you to your current role?

I was running Shindig with my partners when I got involved with Generator. It was a combination of having some spare time and the fact that Generator wanted a small team of people to develop talent for the music industry across the North East and Cumbria, which was really attractive to me. I love a challenge and I love collaborating with people to achieve greater things so it was perfect.

What is your organisation’s mission?

We have been recognised as the leading music development agency in the UK for a number of years now and we have ambition to become one of the leading development agencies for the creative and digital sectors. I’ve built a new team to drive forward for this challenge and everyone is also committed to building and promoting the North East creative and digital sector as much as we can.

How do you get the best out of your team?

The main way is inclusion in everything we do. I’ve learned a lot from the tech sector and how it functions, and we have systems in place where everyone has an equal say and we now make most of the decisions jointly. We are a small team and I think that by empowering everyone in the team, we are more supportive to each other and everyone buys into the vision. Showing humility is also very important.

What has been your career highlight?

My career highlight has to be a music one and that was selling 30,000 tickets for the Evolution Festival in 2010. Building a festival in my home city like we did was something to be extremely proud of. With our ambition to build on the great work of Generator and to expand into other regions, I’m confident that there will be more career highlights to come.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I think my biggest challenge has been ongoing. Running a small independent organisation such as Generator is a continual challenge and the sheer amount of work we have done to support over 1000 businesses, countless artists and contribute to so much to regional and national policy has been immense. We are obviously facing Brexit and that presents a huge challenge for organisations like us in terms of the loss of European Development Funds and how we carry on offering the levels of support once we leave. We are working on this now and are optimistic about the future.

Who or what inspires you?

My inspiration tends to come from people who get up, do something and don’t moan. I’m inspired by people who make a difference by stepping up to a challenge that others don’t. I think this is why I love working in the the sectors that I do.

What are Generator’s short and long-term goals?

We’ve been developing some programmes over the last two years that we are now introducing to other regions. Our short-term goals are to win contracts to deliver support in other LEP areas for different sectors. Digital Union is also coming on leaps and bounds and is proving to be the effective organisation we wanted it to be. We want to keep building this to be the largest network for creative, digital and tech businesses in the North East. Longer term, we want to expand our services throughout the UK, collaborating with more partners and organisations outside of the region.

How do you achieve a good work/life balance?

I’ve never been good at this, but nowadays I try and make sure I get home by 6pm a couple of times during the week and, if I’m not working on a gig, I make sure I don’t engage in email or work phone calls at the weekend.


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