Artistic Director Information Pack

Welcome

Hello and welcome to The Spark Arts for Children. Thank you for your interest in becoming our new Artistic Director.

Leicester is an inspiring, young and creative city, and is culturally, socially and economically ambitious. The Spark plays an important role in developing, restoring and maintaining Leicester's and Leicestershire's cultural identity, encouraging children's creative potential and supporting the cultural values of communities through strong partnerships, creative practices and innovation.

One of our key strengths is our approach to artist relationships, working in partnership and power-sharing. Conceived in 2018, Vital Spark is a movement addressing the lack of diversity in performances for young audiences. Through development opportunities, and commissioning and producing new work, we support artists who are currently underrepresented in the sector. In turn, these artists support us in our ambition to be a more inclusive organisation.

Our vision - extraordinary experiences for children, sparking creativity and change - is at the heart of our values and mission. We pride ourselves on delivering a collaborative and innovative children's arts festival, organising world-class cultural work in local communities all year round, and working with others to help them grow and present the most exciting ideas, productions and cultural programmes in Leicester.

It's an exciting time to join The Spark, a time to realise our artistic and strategic vision for a diverse, creative and playful company, and reach our potential as a sustainable children's arts organisation. We're excited to be recruiting a new ambitious, creative and dynamic Artistic Director to take The Spark Arts for Children into the future.

Mike Candler
Chair of the Board

About us

The Spark is a busy children's arts organisation based at the LCB Depot, a workspace for creative and cultural industries in the heart of Leicester's cultural quarter.

Delivering a small festival project in 2003, a group of local theatres worked in partnership with the local authority to bring national and international performing arts for children and family audiences to local theatres and community venues. By 2004, The Spark was founded, in line with the city's neighbourhood and play strategies and the national strategy for creative education.

We are now an arts organisation that supports children's creative potential with a year-round cultural programme of theatre, music, dance and combined arts. Our audiences are at the heart of what we do, and our work with artists, schools, families and festival audiences is collaborative, creative and playful.

As an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, we are currently preparing our five year business plan and application for the next national portfolio. Our values and strategies reflect the Arts Council's 'Let's Create' strategy and its investment principles. Our partnership with local government is important, as are our long-term relationships with local businesses and universities, regional cultural agencies and charitable trusts and foundations.

This year we will start remodelling the Spark Festival's format and business model, including the festival's involvement with year-round arts and cultural programmes. We will also explore the feasibility of becoming a social enterprise to work towards more stable and sustainable investments and take a more businesslike approach to development and social creativity.

In 2025 we will celebrate our 21st year, a key moment in our organisation's history and our future vision for change.

Our mission

Working to inspire children to thrive, we explore the difference culture makes through involvement in the arts, creative interactions and cultural connections, and enabling children's voices to be heard, their creativity to be supported and their cultural values to be understood.

We do this by commissioning and co-creating high-quality, diverse and innovative arts programmes in cultural venues and community spaces outside, indoors and online. Each year we produce an imaginative and playful children's arts festival – a week-long festival of creative discovery about the world in which we live – that excites audiences and inspires participants. And we support and promote the arts and artists in libraries, and creativity and culture in schools, so that children's creative potential is supported every day. We work nationally to make a difference locally.

Our ambition is for our work to be as thought-provoking as it is playful, and for our organisation to be as creative as our festival and cultural programmes are. Our goal is to change as our local communities change, and to continue to be relevant to children. That is why we invest in playing our part in growing a cultural and creative industry that reflects the passion, creativity and diversity of our society.

Our values

Our values underpin everything we do. Our published values are as follows.

  • A fair and safe environment where everyone is valued
  • The space for big ideas to grow
  • We are curious and love learning
  • Empowering children and young people to be amazing

Strategic objectives

Our published strategic objectives are as follows.

  • Commission and produce a high quality and diverse cultural programme for children in cultural venues, schools and libraries, enabling children, their families and their communities to experience the richness of the arts.
  • Deliver the best children's arts festival in the world, recognised nationally and connected internationally for the ambition and innovation of the programme, and valued for its contribution to the quality of life for children.
  • Champion arts-based learning and teaching for creativity, collaborating to ensure children locally access and influence arts and cultural opportunities, no matter where they start in life, as their right to creativity and play.
  • Grow an entrepreneurial culture, build creativity in strategy and establish a sustainable organisation, ensuring diverse cultural leadership and dynamic governance, skilled, effective and ready to respond to a constantly changing future.

Read our 2020-21 Impact online at thesparkarts.co.uk/annual-report-20-21 and our 2019-20 Annual Report at thesparkarts.co.uk/about

Who we are looking for

The role

Job title: Artistic Director

Reporting to: Chair of the Board of Trustees

Responsible for: Executive Director, Artistic Associates (Festival Co-Directors), General Manager, Creative Producers

We are looking for an ambitious, creative and dynamic Artistic Director to take us into a sustainable future. You must be a creative collaborator who is passionate about partnership working and developing new practice, and an inspiring leader who can promote and encourage creativity in strategy as well as practice.

  • You will help to create an inclusive, socially responsible and financially sustainable company and an ambitious, challenging and relevant cultural programme.
  • You will drive artistic excellence in our cultural programme, building on our achievements to deliver artistically groundbreaking work for children aged 0 to 13 and their communities.
  • You will nurture and strengthen a culture of inclusive working, and support collaboration and the creative process across governance, leadership, staff and communities.
  • You will reach out to new audiences, finding new ways to listen, engage and respond, in order to develop strong and lasting relationships with the company and our work.

Your place in the team

We have recently reviewed our leadership structure and plan to separate the artistic and executive functions, creating two new roles, Artistic Director and Executive Director. The Artistic Director, together with the Executive Director and Artistic Associates, form the leadership team at The Spark.

Team roles

The Artistic Director oversees our overall artistic direction, driving the artistic vision of the company and developing strategies for delivering artistic works and programmes. They have primary responsibility for creating a new five-year strategy and business plan for our cultural programme and audience-focused aims.

The Artistic Director drives the aims of the Vital Spark movement when developing our organisation and the sector and supporting the sustainability of the programme.

The Artistic Associates direct and deliver the annual Spark Festival and related year-round cultural activities with schools and families, including co-creating projects that empower children and support voices and actions. Together, the Artistic Associates organise and oversee the festival that is in line with the Vital Spark movement.

The Executive Director supports the artistic vision and the business plan, with primary responsibility for finance, fundraising, development, marketing and communications, technology, legal, management, HR and governance activities.

With an amazing and experienced team of staff and board of trustees, and a level of financial stability, the Artistic Director role offers the opportunity to lead the evolution of our artistic, creative and cultural future.

Responsibilities

Delivering artistic works and programmes

  • Working closely with the Artistic Associates to develop and deliver cultural programmes to keep current audiences and reach new audiences.
  • Creating, developing, presenting and producing new multi-artform works, or adaptations of existing work, for community venues, including schools and libraries.
  • Supporting the Artistic Associates in delivering the annual Spark Festival as part of the year-round cultural programme for artists, schools and families.
  • Leading the development and delivery of the Vital Spark movement at sector, organisation and programme levels, tackling inequality in the field of performance for young audiences.
  • Directing the programming, commissioning and production of bold and exciting ideas for new work which is more representative of children now and in the future.

Creative leadership

  • Working with the Executive Director to drive our vision and make sure short- medium- and long-term business strategies are put in place.
  • Demonstrating creative and inspirational leadership, committing to the organisation's values and supporting autonomy in the workplace at every level of the company.
  • Supporting, representing and acting on behalf of children, strengthening and sustaining organisation-wide skills and the capability to listen to children so that they influence the development of our organisation and cultural programme.
  • Supporting and encouraging diversity and representation in the cultural sector that produces work for children and young people.

Strategy and investment

  • Working closely with the Executive Director to create and put in place a clear Impact Framework and Fundraising Strategy that is in line with our artistic, business and operational objectives.
  • Working closely with stakeholders in education, culture, health and well-being, and the creative and cultural industries, to influence national policy in culture, education and economic policy-making.
  • Maintaining and developing strong working relationships with leading producers, companies and venues passionate about work for children and young people.
  • Establishing a commitment to Arts Council's investment principles across governance, leadership, staff, associates and volunteers.

Human resources and operations

  • Working closely with the Executive Director to make sure The Spark's organisational structure is appropriate and able to achieve and deliver its artistic, business and operational objectives.
  • Working closely with the Executive Director to oversee annual appraisals, staff training and development, peer learning and sharing knowledge and good practice.
  • Building and maintaining a culture of care and well-being across the team, supporting good governance, leadership and delivery that builds on individual strengths and creativity, protecting independent working and promoting collaboration.
  • Championing a commitment to equality, diversity, inclusion and access, and increasing the representation of those working in and for our organisation, in whatever capacity.

Person Specification

What we are looking for in an Artistic Director

  • Knowledge of and commitment to quality theatre, music, dance and combined arts for children and families.
  • Significant experience of collaboration with children and artists and supporting the development of capability and skills.
  • A track record of working in partnership with companies and communities to direct, programme or produce multi-art form and digital cultural work.
  • Experience of tackling inequality through arts and culture, and of supporting children and artists from diverse cultural, social and economic backgrounds.
  • Experience of strategic planning, financial management and reporting for governance and investment purposes.
  • Professional experience in organisational or group leadership, including encouraging collaboration and supporting diversity at multiple levels.
  • Creative skills and a capacity for risk taking and encouraging others to take managed risks.
  • The passion and creativity required to build the company's profile, strategic positioning and reputation as a cultural leader and champion for children's value to art and culture.
  • Knowledge and experience of analysing data and feedback, and measuring impact, as a process of continuous improvement at organisation and programme levels.
  • A track record in fundraising, including Charitable Trust and Foundation Grants and Donations.
  • A capacity to diversify investment and attract new types of income that are in line with our vision and values and help achieve our mission.
  • A commitment to promoting equality, diversity, inclusion and access in cultural programming, artists, staff teams, leadership and governance.

Equality, diversity, inclusion and access

We value people's experiences and believe that working with people from different backgrounds and with different experiences strengthens and develops the work that we do.

We welcome and encourage applications from people who are underrepresented in the creative and cultural industries.

We are particularly keen to hear from candidates from Asian, Black or ethnically diverse backgrounds and candidates who define as disabled and neurodiverse.

Terms of appointment

Contract type: This post is a full-time permanent role. We are open to flexible working arrangements.

Location: You will be based at the LCB Depot in Leicester.

Salary: The salary for this position is £42,000 to £45,000 a year.

Holiday entitlement: 20 days plus bank holidays, increasing to 25 days plus bank holidays over six years.

Pension: The Spark Arts for Children operates a contributory pension scheme provided by NEST.

How to apply

You can apply by filling in an application form and emailing it with your CV to jobs@thesparkarts.co.uk.

You can download the application form from thesparkarts.co.uk/jobs and we are happy to receive applications in alternative formats (for example, video or audio files) which answer the questions on the application form. All applications will be acknowledged by email.

You will also need to fill in an Equal Opportunities Form which we will email to you when we acknowledge your application. This form is for monitoring purposes only and is not treated as part of your application.

If you have any questions or would like to have an informal conversation before making an application, please email Karen Birch, Interim Executive Director karen@thesparkarts.co.uk.

Timeline

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Monday 4 April 2022.

First interviews will take place on Wednesday 13 April 2022.

Second interviews are planned to take place during the week starting 18 April 2022.