MEET THE FELLOWS: HELEN PALMER

Helen Palmer

Meet Stockport based fellow, Helen Palmer FRSA. She is passionate about the power of culture, specifically the arts, to change lives.

What’s your job?

I’m a co-director of 2 companies: Palmer Squared marketing consultancy specialising in the arts, heritage and culture sectors, and Creative Tourist cultural tourism consultancy including our award-winning http://www.creativetourist.com. I’ve been very lucky to work on many significant projects in the North West region, including The Lowry, Cultureshock (Commonwealth Games North West Cultural Programme), Manchester International Festival, Liverpool Biennial, Asia Triennial Manchester and the Manchester Co-ordination Unit at Marketing Manchester to name a few. I’m also part of the British Ceramics Biennial team in Stoke-on-Trent and the Asian Triennial Manchester which is back this autumn from 27 Sep – 23 Nov 2014.

Where are you based currently in the NW?

I’ve stayed close to my roots, born in Manchester, brought up in Stockport and just living in a different part of Stockport now. It’s a great base as I do a lot of work and socialising in Manchester but also travel all over the UK for work.

What social actions are you passionate about? 

The reason I work in the arts is not just because I’m a culture vulture, but because I believe passionately in the power of culture to change lives – even if that’s only to make you smile, or think about something in a new way, or tackle challenging issues, or provide new routes into employment, or simply enjoy an outlet for creativity – something we all need. I’ve been lucky enough to work on numerous projects where I’ve seen at first hand how interaction and engagement with the arts and artists can make a positive impact on an individual’s life.

What social action projects are you involved in and how could other fellows get involved?

I’m part of the Home of Honest Coffee co-operative that I found out about through the RSA. A great initiative set up by a group of artists keen to create a new kind of coffee house to really serve its local community in Manchester, with profits donated to local creative and educational groups. There are still plenty of opportunities to get involved and provide support in all aspects of the project.

When did you become a fellow and who or what motivated you to join?

I can’t actually remember when I joined but I’ve been a member for many years now. Like many people I’d never heard of the RSA till a membership application arrived in the post. I’d been recommended to join by a colleague, so once I started reading about the work of the RSA, I thought it was a worthwhile organisation to get involved in.

How have you been involved with RSA to date – locally or nationally? Is there anything else you’d like to be more involved in?

I was part of the North West Council for a few years, working with RSA colleagues and the incredibly hard-working Vivs Long-Ferguson to engage new Fellows, allocate regional Catalyst funding and generally try to be more proactive in reaching out to Fellows. When work allows, I attend networking events. I also did a piece of stakeholder analysis for the NW Council to help identify key individuals and organisations to target for potential engagement. I’d love to be more involved but as I’m also doing a part-time PhD at the moment, I sadly don’t have the time, but hopefully will again in the future.

If you woke up suddenly one morning and you could gain a new skill, what would it be?

I’m not very good with technology, I can do the basics but I’m also not that interested to work out what to do. Therefore I tend to leave anything technical to my brother, who is also my business partner, to sort out. So it would probably be the ability to be both interested in and able to tackle technical issues, particularly with hardware.

What RSA NW activities would you like to see happen?

I’d like to see more focus on the A of the RSA – the arts. I don’t think Fellows working in the arts sector in the North West, or the arts sector generally, has really understood the potential to tap into RSA resources and Fellows to develop creative collaborations. The tough funding climate is driving more collaboration within the cultural sector and new partnerships with external agencies, but certainly more could be done to encourage new collaborations with social benefits. I often feel that there is too much reinventing the wheel as I’ve seen so many similar projects across the cultural sector receive public sector funding and not enough sharing of intelligence and insight.

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