Greatest feats: Helen Marriage

October 2, 2019

Helen Marriage is chief executive and artistic director of Artichoke, the arts charity that produces Lumiere. Here, she shares the acts she’s been most inspired by

What do you consider to be the greatest feat in business and why?

Two things come to mind in relation to great business inventions; the internet and the touch screen. The first has made our world a hyper-networked global village. The second is simply a marvel of technology and I always think of Zaphod Beeblebrox in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, who was surely using the world’s first iPad years before its official invention. But the rapid transformation of this digital age and its increasingly voice-activated and facial-recognition technology is also a threat to what is the most amazing business enabling human feat ever – our written language. From Egyptian hieroglyphics to illuminated manuscripts, such as the Lindisfarne Gospel, to the printed text we are familiar with today, the evolution of writing trumps everything.

What is the greatest physical feat you’ve witnessed by an individual and why?

Last month, in Galway’s Eyre Square, watching open-mouthed along with thousands of people as the lead acrobat from French company Gratte Ciel gave the most extraordinary performance 80 feet above the ground. It was sheer athletic beauty. Galway is European Capital of Culture in 2020, and Artichoke is working with the team there to programme the year.

What about by a group or team?

England winning this year’s Cricket World Cup. It was a moment that made me very happy.

Which demonstration of intelligence/mental strength has most impressed you?

I think it would have to be Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary leadership of South Africa after his decades of incarceration and the example he showed the whole world.

Which act of generosity has inspired you the most and why?

The generosity of all the wonderful supporters of Lumiere, who have enabled us to return to Durham once again to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the festival. Durham County Council’s visionary support since 2009 is a shining example of a local authority committed to investing in arts and culture as part of an overall development strategy. I also can’t underline enough how grateful we are to the local businesses in Durham and the North East for their unstinting support in helping fund Lumiere and ensuring this amazing festival is completely free for everyone to enjoy.

Lumiere Durham
Lumiere takes place in Durham November 14-17

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