Creative Kernow

Creative Kernow

Creative Kernow, based at Krowji, is the umbrella organisation for the following nine projects. Together we support the production, promotion and distribution of work by creative practitioners in Cornwall because we believe in creativity’s transformative power and want more people to benefit from it.

Title Decoration

Hannah Irwin

Title Decoration

Hannah Irwin

Hannah is a Project Manager working within The Bridge, a specialist team supporting knowledge exchange at the University of Plymouth. “My role is about connecting the university’s skills, resources and expertise with the outside world, including the creative community across the South West." Hannah was selected to be part of the first cohort of our Creative and Cultural Leadership Programme.

Hannah is currently managing two of the team’s portfolio of projects. iMayflower is designed to build Plymouth’s creative industries and nurture ‘creative people power,’ funded by DCMS and Arts Council England, and delivered by a consortium of partners. Engaging Students in Knowledge Exchange, funded by Office for Students and Research England, explores the impact of student involvement in knowledge exchange, developing and sharing great practice. Hannah is passionate about the principle of knowledge exchange, and loves her role as a “super-connector and catalyst for conversation and successful, creative collaborations.”

 As Chair of Bodmin Riding Festival Hannah was one of the Busy Rebels behind the revival of this heritage and community event. She also sits on the board of KBSK Performing Arts CIC, also based in Bodmin, her adopted hometown.

How did you get into the cultural and creative sector in Cornwall?

From a young age, Hannah always said that she wanted to direct theatre, something she’s in fact never done. “But I think the aspects that most appealed, the reasons I was so passionate about that,” she says, “have translated into what I’ve gone on to do; the creativity, storytelling and collaboration.”

Her career to date has included a seemingly diverse range of roles and sectors: working across communications for a housing association, in arts marketing and visitor experience for music and arts festivals and theatre, and developing marketing, audience and events for a Cornish heritage railway.

As she observes, very few people have a linear career trajectory anymore, but the threads that run through her work are clear: being able to find and share stories; acting as a translator and bringing people together around a shared opportunity or vision.

Why did you want to join the leadership programme?

The pandemic prompted Hannah to reflect on the direction she wanted to pursue and how she could identify, evaluate and develop her strengths and grow as a leader. In addition, she was excited by the prospect of becoming part of a wider cohort.

“In my work and in professional development I’m always looking for ways to add value beyond what I’m doing for myself personally,” she says. “I was keen to develop, but also contribute to the wider sector and creative community. The leadership programme offered me the chance to do that – and came at a really important time for me.”

What have you learned from the experience?

“Culturally there can be something difficult about saying you want to be a leader,” says Hannah. “Or being particularly ambitious or vocal about that.”

The leadership programme has provided her a valuable opportunity to reflect on her own development and progression – and to feel affirmed in doing so.

“By supporting this programme, funders and stakeholders are acknowledging that really good leadership is important, both for the challenging times we’re currently experiencing, but also for driving success and innovation. And saying that it is okay to want to develop yourself as a leader. Within the group, we all want to be part of creating a leadership practice that continues to improve. I’ve found that really positive, powerful and inspiring.”

What is your action research project?

Hannah is working with fellow cohort members Bethany and Emily exploring Cornwall’s creative and cultural networks. Alongside mapping existing networks, they’re capturing perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of different models, what the sector wants and needs and identifying opportunities for future development.

Their research fits into wider conversations in Cornwall around creative hubs and networks, creating an interesting and rewarding chance to connect and work with other partners.

“And we’re able to use our own cohort to explore some of our findings around what it takes to build and sustain a strong network,” she says. “They’re a brilliant group to have shared this experience with, and we want to continue supporting each other and contributing to a positive future for the creative and cultural sector in Cornwall.”

Where would you like to be in three to five years?

“It’s a really exciting time right now. I want to hone my skills as someone people want to collaborate with – as a natural leader who can make things happen. If that’s the impression people have of me, then regardless of my job title or role, I’ll be really proud of that.”