September 10, 2018
Interview with Gillian mOORE CBE, DIRECTOR OF MUSIC AT THE SOUTHBANK CENTRE, LONDON
Gillian Moore was born in Glasgow, and has worked to bring music and the arts to the London community for over 35 years. Gillian was Education Officer at the London Sinfonietta for ten years before becoming Head of Education at the Southbank Centre, where she developed an approach that integrated educational and artistic activity. Gillian was awarded a CBE for her services to British music in 1994, and returned as Artistic Director of the London Sinfonietta in 1998. Gillian is now Director of Music at the Southbank Centre, having been Head of Contemporary Culture and Head of Classical Music at the organisation. She also writes and broadcasts regularly about music.
Please could you start by telling us a bit about who you are, which company you work for, and how long you have worked there?
I am Director of Music at Southbank Centre. In different capacities, working a combination of part time/full time, I've been here for 25 years. But I've done lots of other things concurrently, so it doesn't feel like I'm such an old-timer!
How and why did you decide to go into arts management?
I didn't really decide. I wanted something that used my musical training so, eventually I got a job at the London Sinfonietta starting off their education programme. It felt like the perfect job: I love contemporary music and I had all the Sinfonietta's records. I had no idea what the job was as nobody had done that kind of job before. Because I knew nothing, I didn't realise that it was all new ground, working with composers and performers in schools, prisons, the community. It was just very exciting.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the huge variety of music that I'm involved in every day: from orchestral concerts to pop and jazz. And I love the open-ness of Southbank Centre.
Do you see any imbalance of gender equality in the industry, and how has this changed over the years that you have been working in the classical music world? Do you think it is improving?
There are obvious huge areas of inequality: in conductors and in the repertoire we perform. The statistics are just terrible. Although it's so encouraging to see how many great women composers are coming to the fore now - and that has been a major change in my working life. I think that there is also still an inequality at the top of the big institutions: orchestras, festivals, opera houses. Although, working in such a female led organisation as Southbank Centre, it's sometimes easy to forget that. I'm a firm believer in taking positive action to work towards equality. Sometimes it's just a case of thinking just a moment or two longer, beyond the obvious, using your imagination, trying harder.
Do you think there is a good point in an artist’s career to start a family? What is your advice to your artists or employees who are planning to have children alongside their careers?
I'm afraid that I can't offer advice. Like most people, I've just had to muddle through, somehow. When I look back on the period when I
had two small children and was working in the music industry, travelling a lot and having to work unsocial hours with the added complication of a freelance musician husband, it was just a case of survival, with a patchwork of solutions. Most of us don't earn big money is this business, so everything's a compromise. Both of my children travelled with me a lot when they were small enough to do so, and I've had good and bad experiences with childcare all over the world and it was, certainly, often stressful. Finland is brilliant, I can tell you - state funded childcare even for visiting professionals. So here's a piece of advice: work in Finland! Once, in Korea, when the hotel babysitter didn't show up, I had to present to the ISCM World Music Days General Assembly with my one year old playing on the floor behind me, my two colleagues and I taking turns to entertain him. The room was full of quite elderly men. The venerable chairman stood up and said, very seriously and in heavy Austrian accent 'I think that this is the first time in the history at the ISCM we have had a baby at the General Assembly' ...long pause when my heart was in my mouth... 'I think that this is the future!' I could have hugged him.
The only other advice I can give is to try to live near other musicians. We survived because we had friends and neighbours nearby in the same profession, always travelling, out in the evenings. It was a very necessary extended family.
What do you think the biggest barriers are for parents or people with dependants entering the profession? Where do you think positive changes could be made?
It's really difficult, because we work long and unsociable hours, but I think that if all performing organisations were to have family policies (NB not defining it as exclusively a woman's problem) then everybody would be forced to think about all the things that make it difficult and make changes where necessary. At the moment, most performing organisations operate as if nobody has a family.
Many women that we have spoken to have been advised that having children and a career (particularly in opera) is not possible. What are your thoughts on this?
I just can't accept this. End of, as they say.
How has becoming a parent changed or affected your job?
I think that many people report that, when they have children, they work better because every moment counts. I did find, after I had both children, that I had a big of a new lease of life in work. But I really don't want that to sound super-womanish, because there are so many lows as well, when you just feel that you are pretty rubbish at everything. When my children were small I worked at home for part of the week. However, this doesn't mean that you don't need childcare - it's really not possible to work and look after children at the same time, I have found. Someone else needs to be responsible for that time.
Does your role and company make for a parent-friendly career?
There are some great up-sides to the job I do for my kids, who are now 17 and 21. They have met amazing people, seen lots of great stuff, hung out in art galleries and seen parts of the world that they might not otherwise have, had I not been forced to drag them along to work trips (an expensive but often necessary thing to do). Southbank Centre is parent-friendly in that many people here are parents and there is flexibility. But, on balance, my kind of job is really not parent friendly. You do normal office hours and then all the evenings and weekends on top. So, carving out family time is challenging, and even with my children much older now it's a hard balance to strike. I have rules inside my head about what I will and won't do, but they get broken. Sometimes I fantasise about 9 to 5!
(How) has your attitude to artists with families changed since you have become a parent?
My admiration has increased!
Were you ever encouraged not to have children for the sake of your career?
Yes. I received a surprising amount of 'advice', especially when I was about to have my second child. 'you will find it hard to do your job with two', 'how are you going to manage?'. I was quite surprised at the number of people who had an opinion!
What advice would you offer to anyone working in the classical music industry who is about to become a parent?
Build networks of friends who are also musicians and parents. Build your children into your working life if and when you can. Never let anyone tell you you can't be a parent.