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Talking with Kathy McArdle – Chief Operating Officer – Creative Quarter

Kathy McArdle

Kathy McArdleThis afternoon I sat in Lee Rosy’s, enjoying a drink and a conversation with Kathy McArdle, the newly appointed Chief Operating Officer of the Creative Quarter company.  Creative Nottingham has often blogged about the Creative Quarter, even before the initiative launch last September (as any search our site for “creative quarter” will show).

“GameCity and Nottingham Forest” were some of the things she knew about Nottingham, as well as Nott Dance and Lakeside Arts Centre, she said, before preparing for her job interview earlier this year. (Although she did later admit to having heard of Robin Hood as well, and I explained about Notts County.) Still reliant upon her smartphone and Google Maps to get to places, she is busy meeting people from all sectors in Nottingham, and has several guided walking tours of the Creative Quarter (the physical area is a rough triangle, with Antenna to the north, Nottingham Contemporary to the west, BioCity to the east, and what is called the “Island Site” of land stretching down to the rail line.)

Working only three days a week since the start of April while commuting and finishing in Salford, Kathy moves to a Nottingham city suburb this weekend.  She starts full time with us on Monday, 29 April.  Nottingham is as far south and as far east as Kathy has ever worked since starting her career in Dublin, in the theatre. She became a director before working to set up education programmes with the Abbey Theatre, their national theatre. After working with the Arts Centre, Temple Bar, she moved to Aberdeen, then Liverpool, then Salford Quays and MediaCityUK where she has just finished working with a vast range of partners including Peel Media and the BBC  to develop an arts and cultural programme.

She said she was attracted to the job because it included “innovation, place, enterprise development and working with creative people” coupled with the challenge of working with and developing new technologies. Once started on the attractions of the job and Nottingham, I couldn’t keep up with her list of things interesting but noted “clean tech, digitial innovation, life sciences – creativity across the whole range”.

Scope

The Chief Operating Officer will

  • be managing the growth and development of the Creative Quarter itself
  • foster a sense of community amongst the retailers and other businesses
  • identify what unused property is available and what uses could it be put, eg a property strategy (Nottingham Regeneration has down some work on this already she said)
  • be a point of contact, information, and guidance

“I don’t envisage doing all of this working in isolation. I am keen to work in partnership. I see the Creative Quarter development as a collaborative inclusive project for many different stakeholders and organizations to get involved with.”

Kathy also said she would be a point of contact between the CQ businesses and the City Council, and, as needed, will try to influence the Council on behalf of the Quarter.

Events will be set up for groups to look at how to get things done and ensure that people are aware of what is available and what is happening to enhance the significant assets of the area.

Looking back at the launch and the list of specific components, she said that although not directly managing these funds, she will be watching their progress and encouraging their use:

  • Nottingham Investment Fund, originally stated to be £37.5M, is being managed by a venture capital firm, Foresight.
  • Nottingham Technology Fund, £20M, is being managed by a local partnership including BioCity
  • Creative Quarter Loan Fund, is being managed by First Enterprise Business Agency. Businesses (with contact details as in our blogpost last week) Note this is a loan fund, an alternative to bank finance, and is not grants.

Kathy paid tribute to Ricki Marr’s work as Ambassador for the Creative Quarter before her arrival. Getting people together is one of her main objectives, and she is glad that he made such a good start.

The Company

The Creative Quarter company is a separate limited company with a board which reports to the Economic Growth Board for Nottingham. The CQ company is chaired by Mich Stevenson, and the other board members are Craig Chettle, Cllr Nick McDonald, Tony Reid and Jane Todd. The company will be “lean”, initially staffed only by Kathy and the Administrator (still time to apply, just, the closing date is 2 May, see last week’s blogpost), with some help on the communications side from existing City Council staff. Funded by the City Council for the first year, one task for the company is to secure funding longer term. The aim is to be faster than an “institution”. Website and email publications are on the agenda. Use info AT creativequarter.com as a contact address at the moment. Currently hotdesking in Loxley House, Kathy is currently looking for a base in the Quarter itself.

What does Success look like?

Kathy thinks this is much more than a one year job, but by this time next year, she would like to see:

  • a stronger sense of community amongst the businesses in the Quarter
  • clarity on the what the Creative Quarter is and where it is going
  • have had a few events which engaged businesses and the public
  • further along in tackling an improved broadband network
  • some form of mentoring underway, possibly peer to peer as well as experience/new
  • some interesting projects underway in what are now empty properties

I look forward to a conversation in Lee Rosy’s in March 2014……


John is one of our team of bloggers. When not having tea and conversation with interesting people, he can be reached on john AT creativenottingham.com and followed on Twitter @johnwithbeard