So are these the faces of the future in British arts?

A new scheme aims to train the next generation of Serotas and Hytners. <i><b>Louise Jury </b></i>reports on an innovative approach to fostering homegrown talent
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The Independent Online

They may be mainly young and mostly unknown, but if all goes to plan, the 27 men and women featured below will be as significant in the cultural life of Britain in the years to come as Sir Nicholas Serota of the Tate is today.

They may be mainly young and mostly unknown, but if all goes to plan, the 27 men and women featured below will be as significant in the cultural life of Britain in the years to come as Sir Nicholas Serota of the Tate is today.

They are, it is hoped, the answer to a crisis which has seen an influx of Australians, Americans and Europeans to head some of the most important arts organisations in the UK.

They will receive unprecedented mentoring: management tuition and advice on how to juggle the subsidies, lottery funds, sponsorship and Government demands for education programmes and wider public access which are part and parcel of the world of the modern arts leader.

Two years ago, a report commissioned by the Clore Duffield Foundation, the charity funded by the family wealth of the arts philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield, argued that Britain needed to cultivate more arts leaders. Too often, it was claimed, there was a dearth of good candidates when the biggest jobs became vacant. Charismatic leaders like Sir Nicholas Serota at the Tate or Nicholas Hytner at the National Theatre, were, quite simply, in short supply. When Hytner left the South Bank Centre to take up his current position, they turned to an Australian (Michael Lynch) and Tate Modern is now in the hands of a Spaniard (Vicente Todoli).

So earlier this year, candidates were invited for the inaugural Clore Leadership Programme headed by Chris Smith, the former culture secretary, and supported by the Clore Duffield Foundation with further funding from the Arts Council, Nesta (the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) and others, totalling in excess of £1m for the first year. More than 440 people applied for a place.

These 26 - plus one Canadian who could not be present yesterday - are the first potential leaders to be offered a tailor-made training and research programme worth £40,000 apiece and designed to prepare them for the top.

They range from Katrina Newell, a 26-year-old community arts worker from Northern Ireland, to Colin Bell, Elton John's former manager, who at 51 is finally aiming to fulfil his long-held dream of working in theatre.

They met for the first time yesterday at a one-day conference at the Royal Society of Arts in London attended by current leaders including Sir Nicholas Serota, Charles Saumarez Smith of the National Gallery, Tony Hall and Deborah Bull from Covent Garden, and Estelle Morris, the Arts minister, all of whom were united in giving the initiative their unswerving support.

Lord Stevenson, the chairman of the Pearson Group and former chairman of the Tate, warned the fellows that their job would be difficult. "Leadership in the arts is considerably more difficult than leadership in business," he said. There was no bottom line to be measured by; they were dealing with "that very fragile thing called artistic judgement, artistic taste," and they were subjected to far more public scrutiny than business ever was. "We in business rarely take the kind of risks that people in the arts do," he added.

And even the most successful arts leaders admitted they could have benefited from the scheme. As Nicholas Hytner pointed out, he had no previous experience of leading any organisation whatsoever when he took over at the National last year. "For all the centuries that British theatre has existed, it has been about apprenticeships, about learning on the job. But I don't think that is always enough," he said.

"It does embarrass me now in my present position how little I know about some of the things I should know about. What I hope the Clore cultural leadership programme will enable people like me to do is to be a great deal more expert and a great deal less hit-and-miss in the way we approach these things. More importantly, I hope it will be a way of articulating, almost codifying, things that have been, in my world - the theatre - learnt over generations, passed from artist to artist and never properly thought about and never properly turned into an educational tool."

Estelle Morris said it was vital that Britain came to regard good leadership as the norm, not something to be marvelled at. "You're extraordinary people, those of you who have been selected to be fellows, but the challenge is to make you quite ordinary. We can't live with just having 26 extraordinary people."

As for the potential leaders, they all seemed thrilled at the opportunity, even those, like Colin Bell, who have had success in other fields. "Theatre was always the thing I wanted to do," he said. "I studied drama but got waylaid, putting on concerts, running a record company that led to managing Elton John. But in the past seven or eight years, I didn't enjoy it. It was about money instead of about culture or art."

Anwar Akhtar, 35

Lives in London where he works for The Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, a new arts and cultural centre in Tower Hamlets. Has previously worked as a senior officer in the culture team at the Greater London Authority, for Arts Council England and The Republic, Sheffield, a commercial music venue.

Tom Andrews, 34

Canterbury-based chief executive and founder of Music for Change, which works with music educators from Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, and provides interactive workshops and performances, community projects and information. Previously the production/press officer for World Music Network, a music website.

Maria Balshaw, 34

Creative director of Creative Partnerships, the Government's arts access scheme for young people, in Birmingham, where she lives. Previously a research fellow at the University of Birmingham and a lecturer in cultural studies at University College, Northampton.

Colin Bell, 51

After a career in the music industry as manager for Tom Robinson and Elton John, managing director of London Records and head of press for Polygram, Bell returned to university and is aiming to work in his first love, theatre, after the Clore Leadership Programme.

Mark Dusseault, 39

Publicist for the Belfry Theatre, Victoria, British Columbia, he is funding himself to join the fellowship scheme. Dusseault was the only member of the group to miss yesterday's launch as he was cycling in the Rockies.

Susanna Eastburn, 35

Lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, where she is artistic director of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Was previously international promotions manager for Chester Music Ltd/Novello & Co Ltd.

Ciara Eastell, 33

Regarded as a voice of authority in the world of libraries, she lives in Taunton where she is principal assistant county librarian for Somerset County Council. Previously worked for the Cambridgeshire and Gateshead library services.

Stephen Escritt, 32

An antiques expert who isexecutive director for Carlton Hobbs Ltd, a privately owned antiques business, he wants to move into museums. Was a journalist and lecturer.

Teo Greenstreet, 39

The man who transformed circus training in the UK as co-founder and chief executive of the Circus Space in London where he lives. Was circus development officer for Greater London Arts and a performer with Bamboozle and the Leadmill Circus.

Ellie Maxwell, 27

While still at university, she went to Bosnia and founded Firefly International, which works to combat social division and inequality world-wide through the arts and informal education. Continues to be the director of Firefly and lives in London.

Nick Merriman, 44

Curator of museums and collections and reader in museum studies at University College London. Formerly head of early London history and collections at the Museum of London and a curator at Ely Museum.

Keith Merrin, 34

The director of Bede's World, a museum on the site of a seventh-century monastery near Jarrow. Formerly worked in wildlife and conservation at the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, the Kent Wildlife Trust and Northumberland Wildlife Trust before moving to live in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Louisa Milburn, 31

Lives in Derby and is education manager of ViVA: the Orchestra of the East Midlands. Formerly education manager for New Music Manchester and development officer for the Octagon Theatre, Bolton.

Andrew Missingham, 37

Director of the Hub in London which offers consultancy, creative production and fundraising, mainly in music but also in contemporary dance and spoken word events. Has also worked as a musician and record producer, lecturer, projects manager for the British Council and the director of performing arts at the ICA.

Katrina Newell, 26

Youth arts co-ordinator for New Lodge Arts Project/Ashton Community Trust in north Belfast, which uses the arts to work with marginalised young people aged 11 to 25 years in this divided community. Lives in Co Down.

Eddie Nixon, 33

Freelance London-based dancer/performer with New Adventures, The Featherstonehaughs and DV8 Physical Theatre and most recently seen in "Play Without Words" at the National Theatre. Has also worked as a rehearsal director, choreographer and temporary programme manager for Dance UK and is interested in developing this work behind the scenes.

Matthew Peacock, 32

Founder and executive director of Streetwise Opera, which encourages homeless people through participation in professional music-making. Lives in London. Previously worked for Opera Boston in America, as assistant editor of Opera Magazine and for The Passage Nightshelter.

Gavin Reid, 37

Freelance trumpet player who co- ordinated education work for the Bridgewater Hall Community Education Trust and Manchester Camerata, the Bridgewater Hall's chamber orchestra in residence, before becoming the Camerata's general manager. Lives in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

Jacqueline Riding, 37

Director of the relatively new Handel House Museum in London which opened its doors on schedule despite a fire just before the official opening. Formerly worked as an assistant curator at the Palace of Westminster and assistant registrar at the Tate.

Sara Robinson, 35

Director of Ludlow Assembly Rooms, a rural arts and community centre in the Shropshire town where she also lives. Was formerly a freelance arts project director for Yorkshire Youth Music, Kirklees Cultural Services and the Orange Darlington Festival.

Axel Rüger, 36

Born in Germany, he now lives in London where he is curator of Dutch paintings for the National Gallery. Was previously an administrator at Sotheby's, Berlin, and worked at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Nii Sackey, 26

Director and founder of Bigga Fish, which provides youth education through music, multimedia and entertainment in London where he lives.

Moira Sinclair, 40

Director of Vital Arts, which delivers integrated arts projects for patients, staff and the wider community at Barts and the London NHS Trust. Was previously the community leisure manager at South Bedfordshire District Council, general manager of Green Candle Dance Company, and held various management posts at the Tricycle Theatre and Soho Theatre, both in London. Lives in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.

Kathleen Soriano, 40

Head of exhibitions and collections management at the National Portrait Gallery in London where she lives. Was previously an education/exhibition assistant at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Deborah Tritton, 31

Archive services manager for the historic collections at Cornwall County Council. Was formerly an archivist for Cornwall Record Office and the archive development officer for the South-West Museums Libraries and Archives Council. Lives in Truro.

Julia Twomlow, 37

Until recently, she was the centre director for Acorn Theatre in Penzance, Cornwall, where she lives. Now a freelance arts manager, including UK representation/tour management for the Polish trio Kroke, who have recently worked with the violinist Nigel Kennedy.

Erica Whyman, 34

Highly regarded artistic director of the small but influential Gate Theatre in London where she lives. Was formerly artistic director of the Southwark Playhouse, associate producer/director of the Tricycle Theatre, both in London, and an assistant director for the English Shakespeare Company and the Oxford Stage Company.