Over the past couple of years both Culturapedia directors have taken time out from the business to study. It’s a long time since both of us sat in a lecture theatre and it’s been a fascinating experience. First of all Rob enrolled on a Masters degree in Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship At Erasmus University in Rotterdam, graduating in September 2017. Impressed with the university, Sue went on to study for a MA in Arts Culture and Society in the same faculty, graduating a year later. Six months on we reflect on the experience and what effect it has had on us and on the business.
First of all, studying in the Netherlands has been a fantastic experience. A German friend of ours commented that we British sit on our little island with our arms crossed, thinking that we know best. We enrolled on international courses with fellow students from across the globe. We learned as much about ourselves through these encounters as we did about them. Both MAs were taught in English and, as EU citizens, the fees were a fraction of that they would have been in the UK. We were studying at a world top 100 university and the quality of the education was superb. The demands on us were double what a UK based lecturer friend tells us some British universities require. This meant more work for us but we certainly got our money’s worth. It was easy, Rotterdam is a short hop from Manchester airport and there are always a couple of budget airlines competing for the business.
The Netherlands is an easy place to be. It has an integrated transport system that we British could only dream of. It is friendly, welcoming, international, clean and well resourced.
We were studying in English, reading papers written in English, quite often about UK case studies. Internationally, it seems, the UK has a good reputation for arts, culture, creativity, policy and delivery. The UK’s arms length funding tradition is much envied as is our creative industry infrastructure. We are perceived as being the bridge between Europe and the US in terms of public/private support for the arts but we suspect that London, the West End and the large, sponsored, cultural bodies based there skew a national perception. Despite the international nature of our
studies we both observed that perhaps the viewpoint was a bit Eurocentric but that was certainly wider than the UKcentric perspective that we are used to.
We both really valued our time in Rotterdam – so much so we’ve not been able to leave it fully yet, having kept a base in the city.
Coming back to Blackburn and Culturapedia hasn’t been easy. Initially it has felt a bit like a bit of a backward step especially with the national malaise surrounding Brexit. It has also taken time to embed ourselves back into the routine of Culturapedia. We have successfully set up a business, with a fantastic staff team, that means that things can chug along at their current level without our full time input. That said our studies have already had an impact on what we do and how we do it. For example a more strategic approach to ticket pricing and how we maximise income whilst still making our work accessible to as wider range of people as possible. Our research standards and capabilities are much enhanced. Having both settled back in we are starting to think differently about what next and are developing some exciting ideas for the future. As I write, the Brexit shambles and uncertainty is still hanging over our heads. We’re looking forward to some certainty when we can reduce the number of ‘what ifs’ from our plans.
Whatever happens we will both now always be old Dutch Masters.