Its first full year of operation was 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, which required some adjustments to her plans. “But now there’s an amazing energy,” she says, “and so many people wanting to get involved and do things.”
How did you get into the cultural and creative sector in Cornwall?
Like many creatives, Megan has had a career combining many different types of work, all of which have contributed to her experience and skills.
After graduating with a BA in fine art and an MA in furniture design, she worked for two high-profile architectural practices in London. “Although it wasn’t what I felt I wanted to do long term,” she says, “I learned a lot about running a creative organisation, bringing together big teams of people with different specialisms applying for architectural competitions and jobs and funding. I’ve since realised that I was building up valuable experience around creating quite complex projects and communicating them to other people.”
After doing a PGCE in adult and further education, she moved on to teaching at an FE college in Tottenham, working with adults with mental health issues and learning disabilities. Alongside this she co-founded an arts organisation called Make-Room, which worked closely with Haringey Council and developed a range of projects in the public realm including designing a local park, doing a shop front improvement scheme, and putting on public exhibitions.
“And then,” she concludes, “there was a total change of tack and I had the opportunity to move to Cornwall. That was a chance for me to reflect: What aspects of that kind of practice would I take with me? What would I do differently?”
Why did you want to join the leadership programme?
In the midst of developing Grays Wharf with colleagues Mirri Damer and Hannah Woodman, Megan decided to apply for the leadership programme. For her this was a valuable opportunity to step back from the whirlwind of organising – to reflect and to recognise herself as a leader.
“It felt like something that would nurture me,” she says, “while at the same time giving me some perspective on what I was doing. I look back at all the artists and organisations that we’re working with, and the courses that we set up, and think, ‘that didn’t just happen out of nowhere.’ For me it’s about developing the confidence to be able to say, ‘yeah, I’ve helped make this happen’ – and to apply for the funding opportunities that will allow Grays Wharf to take the next step in its growth.”
What is your action research project?
Reading a draft partnership agreement provided by a national funder, Megan found herself asking whether it would be possible to apply the creative process to establishing partnerships.
“I looked at it and thought, this is a very dry document, isn’t it?” she says. “It doesn’t really inspire me. Immediately it’s very risk-averse, assuming that things will go wrong. Of course, that’s necessary, but what about considering how you’ll work together and how your partnership will reflect the aims, ethos, and values of the project?”
Therefore Megan is looking at whether taking a more creative approach to developing partnership agreements can make them stronger and more sustainable – leading in turn to healthier and more successful projects.
Using an actual partnership as a test case, Megan is experimenting with form and process. So far she’s done an online design session with six artists to draw out aims and expectations, and is thinking about what shape a creative partnership agreement might take.
Where would you like to be in three to five years?
“My change in ambition has crept up on me,” says Megan. “All of a sudden, Grays Wharf has grown and is getting a name for itself.” So she is now focused on building up a wider team and building on recent funding success that can make the organisation sustainable in the long term.
“I think it’s an exciting evolution,” she says. “It’s now a really successful and growing organisation with a track record, and partners and supporters and visitors. And that gives me huge confidence in selling what it does. Now I can say, this is brilliant, this is amazing – look at what we’re doing and come and be part of it.”