The Chair of the Royal Society for the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce

Interview with Vikki Heywood,
Chairman(sic) of the RSA

Chair of the RSA

(Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)

“Over my career I’ve developed  an understanding of the complexity of human relationships and the desire to engage with both your own creativity and the creativity of others, and how it enables you to think through your life and the world around you.

“As a child I had loads of role models.   My family, my mother, my father.   My grandmother on my father’s side was a business woman, widowed young, who took on running her husband’s business, which was a cotton mill in Lancashire.   She was matriarchal, very funny, quite indomitable, a force of nature.

“My other influence was books, loads of books, about groups of people.   Family groups going through amazing experiences.   They were adventure stories, a group coming together and working against adversity, now I think about it.

Vikki Heywood

The Chair of the RSA

My unifying theme is being part of a team.

“My most influential achievement was probably The Warwick Commission on the future of cultural value, which I chaired.  That report was terrific, because it was really significant, got a huge amount of coverage.   It did influence government policy and critically influenced  the creative industries.   It wasn’t as flattering towards the creative industries as it might have been, but they need to get with the program, especially diversity and inclusion.

Prior to her appointment at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Vikki was Joint Chief Executive of the Royal Court Theatre.   At both the RSC and the Royal Court she was responsible for their two, multiple million pound capital projects, which transformed two iconic theatre buildings in London and Stratford Upon Avon.

“In life, when you’re wandering around, not sure who you are, or what you want to do, somebody somewhere believes in you and recognizes something in you and gives you that break.

Education and the Arts.   
“I was not strong academically.   I couldn’t see the point of algebra.  I was competent but I was incapable of bothering.   “Vikki was very active in her participation of discussion in class but her written work leaves a lot to be desired.”

Creatives are having a hard time as government seems to consider the Arts a luxury rather than recognizing, how fundamental they are to nourishing and encouraging creativity.   Andrew Lloyd Webber said just this week, this  government doesn’t seem to get it.  Every penny spent on the Arts is an investment which will come back tenfold.

“I have seen a real sea change in understanding about the Arts, mostly because of the economic arguments.  If you start talking about 77 billion pounds of economic benefit to the UK, then you’re having a different kind of conversation with a politician.

“But where we seem to be losing some real traction the debate is around creative arts participation in education. It is a very frustrating conversation to be having.    There is a real disconnect.

Surprising and memorable

There are many surprising events in my life.    My friend is a quilter who collects pieces from all over the world, and makes challenging quilts. I didn’t know that. The interesting part is about all the different ways that people find pleasure in their lives, I get enormous pleasure out of that.   It always surprises me, you think you know people very well.

I have many memorable events, but for me the most memorable events revolve around my all my family, our children, we are quite a clan.  It is always around us being together having a good time, fun today.

“The greatest challenge was my first big management job, a theatre in Manchester.  I got there and discovered it was a total and utter mess.  I hadn’t really realized that, nor had the artistic director, nor had the board.   It’s a bad moment to go into your first board meeting, when you’ve been there 3 weeks, to tell them that this company was fundamentally insolvent.   Some pretty dramatic things were going to have to happen.  It was a challenge I wasn’t expecting.

The buildings are a means to an end
At both the RSC and the Royal Court,  Vikki was responsible for their two, multiple million pound capital projects, which transformed two iconic theatre buildings in London and Stratford Upon Avon.

“Building projects shove organizations forward, but they are only a mechanism,  the end has got to be about increased public engagement in creativity.   Which is why I am now putting my voluntary energy into projects of how you unlock people’s creativity to the benefit of society.

Mountview Drama Academy in Peckham
The building we’re creating will be a meeting place for students at the top of their game who want to enter into the creative industries, creative industries practitioners, with spaces for them to work and develop their craft within the building, and the local community of life long learners.   The building is to create a forum, a kissing point, between those three groups of people. The interrelationships which occur make the building really interesting, dynamic and diverse.

The end has got to be about increased public engagement in creativity.

You can read more of the interview on:



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