Jeremy Newton, CEO of the education charity Children & the Arts and a Cambridge Judge Fellow who leads the Culture, Arts & Media concentration for the Cambridge MBA, discusses the interaction of business and the arts.
Jeremy Newton, chief executive of the charity Children & the Arts, is also a Fellow at Cambridge Judge Business School and leads the Culture, Arts & Media Management concentration for the Cambridge MBA programme. We asked Jeremy to share his thoughts about business and arts, the importance of art education, and challenges in the arts industry today.
Tell a bit more about the Children & Arts charity.
The charity was set up about 12 years ago by HRH Prince of Wales and its mission is to get disadvantaged children involved in art activities, such as singing, dancing or visiting museums and galleries. We work with UK schools, hospices and children in care with the aim to extend the curriculum with high-quality arts.
Why is it important for children to be involved in the arts?
Our research shows that children who are struggling or are left behind are performing better after they’re involved in arts activities. Arts provide an opportunity to develop self-confidence, social and emotional skills. We have also noticed that it has a positive impact on overall school curriculum and culture.
You’re an alumnus of St John’s College, University of Cambridge, where you read Masters in Modern & Medieval Languages, French & German. How did you get involved in the arts industry?
I come from a theatre-obsessed family and it was a world I always wanted to work in. I realised early on that I don’t have a talent to be an actor or artist. Therefore, I decided to pursue a career in administration and management, so I could work in the industry. After my studies I got my first job with a ‘big four’ accountancy firm, qualified as a chartered accountant, then was lucky enough to get a senior position in the arts funding and development agency for the East of England.
How did you start teaching here at Cambridge Judge Business School?
I came to Cambridge Judge about nine years ago. I was involved in creating the Culture, Arts & Media Management concentration for the MBA programme. Together with Cambridge Judge alumna Becky Schutt (MBA 2004) we developed the concentration and I’m still running it today. The content of the concentration has been evolving over the years: when it started it was more focused on the media sector, broadcasting and the film industry, and later we added museums and theatres as more students got interested in the course. Today I also provide career guidance for students who want to work in the sector.
What are the main challenges in the arts industry today?
Probably one of the main challenges is leadership and motivation. A lot of arts organisations are very small, and exceptional talent is not always rewarded properly as the remuneration and career progression structures are relatively fragile and undeveloped. Motivation then needs to come from other areas to balance it. On the other hand, a career in arts can be hugely rewarding. You can express yourself and see the impact of what you do quite quickly: audience response to the fruits of your work is instantaneous and exhilarating. Another challenge in the sector is Brexit: the UK exports quite a lot of arts content to Europe and also brings talented people from there – but if the EU market disappears we’ll need to look at other options.
Do you think popular TV shows like The Voice or Strictly Come Dancing help to promote the arts?
I know how much work and training people need to do before someone becomes a truly professional artist. I’m not a big fan of someone becoming famous overnight, just because he or she chose the right place and time. But it is nice to see that young people are still enjoying and performing arts. If the message could be broadened these shows could be an important channel to promote the industry.
You’ve been recently appointed as vice principal and director of advancement at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. What are you hoping to achieve?
I’m starting my new role in April and will be mainly responsible for strategic business planning, fundraising and development. The Guildhall School is different from other similar organisations because it has both music and drama under one roof. The challenge here is how to combine the breadth of both activities and convert it in to a wider career. As any other higher education organisation, the School is also looking to secure long-term sustainability that will help overcome current and future economic challenges.