Digital Channel > Jon Gilchrist Q&A with Kathryn Jacob

Jon Gilchrist Q&A with Kathryn Jacob

HOME’s departing Executive Director & Deputy Chief Executive, Jon Gilchrist, sat down for a chat with Kathryn Jacob, Chair of the Board and CEO of Pearl & Dean to look back on his time here with us. Click above to listen to the audio or read the transcript below…


Jon: Hi.

Kathryn: Hello, Jon Gilchrist soon to leave home. So I’m going to ask you some questions. Are you ready?

Jon: I think so.

Kathryn: Your first question is, aside from meeting me, Jon, which is a joke. What have you most enjoyed about working at HOME?

Jon: Wow. Gosh, it’s been such an unusual four years. Obviously, punctuated by pandemic and all sorts of other thing. I think, ultimately HOME it’s the depth and breadth of the work. It’s the fact there isn’t another organisation in the country that I know of that has this sort of level of variety. It’s the fact that there’s an organisation that produces commission’s and presents work across so many different art forms. It’s that you never know what you’re going to encounter. And it constantly tests different parts of the brain and you’re encountering all these different challenges. And you’re working with people who are constantly flexible and solving problems and dealing with with everything that’s out there. And you know, that’s a really inspiring thing. So, yeah, I think it’s probably, that it’s the range and the breadth of the work and the people you get to do that with.

Kathryn: Great, do you have a favourite moment or memory from your time here?

Jon: I don’t suppose – there’s so many. I think there’s your pre pandemic, there was a day, a couple of years ago, where we had Insane Animals on, and it was the awards night for the Manchester Open [Exhibition]. And we had like, full cinemas. It was the busiest time we’d ever had for cinemas. It was like when Parasite and various other things on and we had a Q&A for Steve Coogan, in the building that day, and it was absolutely rammed the building was just full to brim of people. And it was like walking through those front of house areas in that cross section and intersectionality of different audiences. And you realise that it’s actually it’s not what goes on in individual rooms that’s exciting about HOME, it’s the social space in between where everyone coalesces. So it’s when you’ve got that moment where you’ve got the audience for Insane Animals, you’ve got the audience, for the cinemas, and the galleries, and they’ve all experienced very different cultural experiences, that they can come together in one place. And usually you having come from like a theatre background, you obviously have those social spaces in your, in your venue, but everyone’s experienced the same thing. And there’s something just incredibly special about that. And I think, you know, post pandemic, the, you know, from, the moment that we closed, I think there was so many moments where it was just in awe of the the team here and their, their response to, the challenges and how we continue to offer something to the artists and the audiences at the city was incredible. And I think probably, you know, HOME Ground was was brilliant. And there was so much we learned from that and so many brilliant experiences that people have. But I think there was a moment when we reopened. And we had Mr. Wilson’s playing in Tony Wilson place and people were coming back into the building. And we were, you know, reasonably pioneers in terms of that. And I think that was an incredibly satisfying moment that felt like we were achieving something against all odds.So yeah, I think that was a really important moment to get.

Kathryn: What have you learnt working at HOME?

Jon: Wow, I think you’re just constantly learning, aren’t you? I think there’s, you learn to spin plates, I think you learn to be able to move your head between different challenges reasonably quickly. I learned a lot about contemporary art that was wasn’t my background at all. But I think I’ve had the opportunity to speak to some really interesting people and I had the privilege of going to the Venice Biennale, which is it’s sort of a bit like mainlining contemporary art into your veins, you just and I think that that sort of opened my eyes to an entirely different world of artistic outlook, and I think that was that was really fascinating. I learned a lot more about film, and you know, spending time with Jason Ward and Rachel Hayward and Dave Moutrey as well.I think that taught me you know more about Independent Film, International Film. I think that’s sparked the passion. For me that probably wasn’t there before working at HOME. And I think, as well probably most of all, I learned so much from from Dave himself in terms of what the civic purpose of an arts venue is in a city like Manchester. And I think that he, he’s extraordinary. And he’s very much one of the kind. I think that that has given me so much sort of fire and spark to take through to the next job in terms of, of what a venue, and what the purpose of arts and culture is to communities.

Kathryn: And what most excites you about HOME’s future, and I’m saying this, as we look at the arches…

Jon: Yeah we do, I think the, I think the nuanced Council strategy, let’s create, I think it very much fits into the outlook that, that the, that HOME is pushing for that both the trustees and the executive want to support. So I think that we’re incredibly well placed into the next 10 years to actually do something incredibly exciting. I think, I’ve always, this is probably a shot analogy, but I’ve always seen a, an arts organisation is a bit like a child, you know, in, in the first first few years, you’re sort of finding your feet, you’re learning to speak, you’re learning your place in the world. And, you know, we’re now coming up to, you know, we’re around eight. So, you know, we’re, we’re not a proper child anymore, we’re starting to develop a real consistent personality, which is something that will stay with us. So then you, you sort of go through around 10, you go through a sort of weird preteen period, then sort of rebellious time, and by the time we get to about 18, you’re reasonably fixed in your personality. And you can go through middle age crisis, the analogies lost anyway. But what I mean is that we’re young enough in the gestation period for an organisation to change, and to keep finding, trying things out and finding things that makes sense.

Kathryn: No, that does make sense. And I think it’s an interesting analogy, because I think we’ve got enough base knowledge to know what we can do and what we can’t do. And the teams in place to do that, oh, that’s a great analogy. But a bad analogy at all.

Jon: The thing is, you know, the kid puts the hand in the fire for the first time, and it’s like, we’ve put our hands in fires, you know, we’ve we’ve run out into roads, you know, we’ve done all that stuff, and we’re learning and, and I think that the next phase for us, yes, you know, to go back to the arches, I think it’s, it’s, buildings are great. But it’s what goes on in the buildings that matters. There’s, they’re effectively vessels for the the audiences artists, stakeholders, you know, workforce to deliver the thing that they need to do for the charity. And the reason why the the arches capital project development we’re doing at the moment is important is because we have a bottleneck whereby the ambitions of the organisation are only limited by physical space. And by unlocking that space and developing those, we can achieve so much more. So it’s especially talent development with the you know, brilliant Jenny McCusker, who’s been been leading that for a number of years now. It, it’s, something where that ambition is only limited by space, it’s like we can do more. And I think that that’s the thing, it’s, it’s not about pushing the organisation beyond its capabilities, or are stretching it too far. So I think that I’d be really excited about not just the development of those artists in the opportunity to have culture, which better reflects the diversity of the city, but also the outcomes that we’ll have in our gallery spaces and our cinemas and our theatres. And, you know, we’d love to see what happens in the next, you know, 5, 10 years and how many of those are artists go on to have an international reputation. And I think that’s what I’m probably most excited about for HOME and for Manchester,

Kathryn: A slightly left field question, which is, how have your Welsh language skills been useful at HOME?

Jon: Not at all!

Kathryn: I find that hard to believe. I mean, it’s an underserved audience.

Jon: My Welsh is so bad, it’s so bad. I remember, I learned it up to 14 and my mum has moved back to North Wales. And she’s doing like, you know, one of those like apps where she’s relearning Welsh, and yeah, I can’t, I can remember very, very little of it. You know, might as well be remembering Klingon. But, you know, it’s, I think it’s such an important part of the culture of the people in Wales and I find the moment that I can, you know, watch some old episodes of Polycom, I’ll be like, Ah, I’m back into it  now, I actually find it easier to understand than I am to speak. I haven’t I was. There’s a, like the Welsh equivalent of Grange Hill when I was a kid with this programme called Ruin De Ruin, which was basically about a paper round in Wales. And I once played a background artist in that and it was like, yeah didn’t have any clue what was going on. So the answer is very little, but I hope to be able to utilise my Welsh heritage and skill at some point in the future.

Kathryn: As well, as more than background artist in some kind of Welsh language film.

Jon: Never say never!

Kathryn: Well, we’ll will tell Rachel to expect that coming along. Yeah, she won’t be to understand it although she’s fluent in French but um, certainly it’ll just be remarkable.

Jon: One man show about Welsh Charles history Charles Christmas in Wales.

Kathryn: Yes. What else? Yeah, you can channel you’re in a Dylan Thompson. So what would you miss about Manchester?

Jon: You know, in all honesty I’ll be back here enough, because, yeah, for football and because I’ve got so many brilliant friends here. And yeah, I I’ll, you know, I’ll miss the city itself. I’ll miss the various pubs of the Northern Quarter where I’ve spent disproportionate amount of time. I’ll miss Temple Bar. Yeah, I know, I think Manchester Manchester is, is a city, that I sort of get the people and I get how everything fits together. And I feel incredibly comfortable. I’ve lived in the city centre, I’ve lived in, you know, living in Chorlton now, previously lived just you know, outside in Bolton, and I feel like know how everything sort of fits together. I think the cultural landscape of Manchester is incredibly impressive. I think it’s, it’s got, you know, it’s got more theatre seats than any English city outside London. It’s got some incredible fringe spaces where you can see work of a intimidating, high standard. And, you know, it’s got some brilliant galleries. And I think the cultural landscape is something that has achieved a lot. And I think there’s more headroom, I think there is there’s still more to go. And I think the the intervention that Factory will have at a larger scale will be really exciting. But I think ultimately, I’ll miss almost everything about Manchester. But I’m equally excited to go and learn more about an entirely new city that I know less about, but in my experience, being there at the moment. It’s been, it’s been amazing.

Kathryn: I think Birmingham is a great city. I think it’s a massive opportunity there and I think you’ll make a definite contribution. What will you miss about HOME?

Jon: Oh, what will I miss about HOME? Honestly, it’s the people. I will miss so many of the people. I’ve learned so much from from everyone here at you know, marketing teams, development teams, the artistic teams, you know, the finance teams, it’s just that there is everyone here has so much to offer and and to give and I think having sort of feel like we’ve lived through a very difficult time together. Of course the Board as well. I can’t forget the Trustees.

Kathryn: Who yes, have been changed your life in real life inordinately!

Jon: Yeah, I think that that’s that’s the thing is it feels that we have been on a journey together and there’s been bumps in the road, there’s been massive achievements, there’s been challenges, there’s things we’ve done incredibly well, there’s things that we could have done a lot better. And, you know, hopefully we’ll learn from them and to get better at them. And I think that’s the thing, yeah I’ll miss being able to just, there’s so much going on, I’ll miss being able to just pop in and see a film or go and see a show in T2,  you know, go sit and have one of the excellent pizzas, or sit in the bar, I think there’s a million things I’ll miss. You know, I just look forward now to being a visitor being able to come in…

Kathryn: Yeah, and not be worrying about anything…

Jon: Absolutely. Yeah. Just like one of the one of the taps won’t stop running. So yeah, it’s not my problem anymore…

Kathryn: You have to go and tell someone about it..

Jon: Oh, I won’t. I won’t…

Kathryn: Yes you will, with energy prices were there at the moment. You will definitely

Jon: I promise. I promise you as Chair of the Board, I will ensure that taps aren’t running!

Kathryn: Thank you so much. So will you be putting a beehive on the roof of  the Hippodrome.

Jon: Do you know what, I hadn’t thought of that. But do you know what would be really nice if we can get a beehive there which had its origins from, you know, Nick, or one of the Queens. Is that how it works?

Kathryn: I think you’d probably get a custom made beehive. Actually for you. Maybe you should have a Blind Peaky Blinders beehive. Maybe you have beehives named after all of your productions.

Jon: I’m 90% sure that not everything in Birmingham needs to do much with the Peaky Blinders but I’ll check when I get there.

Kathryn: Cadbury chocolate. Bournville Beehive.

Jon: This is why they pay you the big bucks, Kathryn. Bournville Beehive. If you actually think about it Bournville, the thing about Bournville is it’s an entirely dry community.

Kathryn: Obviously yes it was started by Quaker

Jon: … but yes you still can’t get booze there. They’ve made the commitment as a community. So we did look in Bournville but…

Kathryn: Obviously enough you decided, Jon, not to live there, I find that surprising.

Jon: I think it might be good for me…

Kathryn: But not so good for the hospitality industry. I mean, you’ve got to fulfil your commitment to them. However, leaving the pizzas behind here, you’ve got to do something else.

Jon: I become a connoisseur of alcohol free beer now. I know all the best routes around it.

Kathryn: Yeah, he’ll be doing a podcast on that. You know that’s the next possible series ‘Bee Hives and Beer’ with Jon Gilchrist. Wait for that.

Jon: No one wants to hear that…

 Kathryn: On Acast shortly. I’m just currently trying to get him a sponsor… Do your new colleagues in Birmingham know what a massive city fan you are? Or have you? Have you had to keep that quiet?

Jon: I’ve not really made a big deal of it yet.

Kathryn: I doubt if your football allegiance came up much during your interview. Or maybe that’s the thing that we’re missing during our interview processes.

Kathryn: Just pretend to like cricket…

Jon: …I do like cricket!

Kathryn: Well, there you are then, just talk about cricket.

Jon: I was quite good at cricket. And I was never really good at football, I was alright at cricket…

Kathryn: You found your Allegiant…

Jon: …terrible at Rugby, which being brought up in Wales was a not a great thing.

Jon: It does feel in Manchester. It’s something that’s immediately discussed. And it’s like, you know, it’s one of the first conversations you’ll have in Birmingham it doesn’t feel like it’s raised as much. Because it’s interesting, because obviously this summer, it’s the Commonwealth Games, which is gonna be amazing. I think it’s interesting for a city, like Manchester where the Commonwealth Games was one of the catalysts for the sort of cultural revolution in the city. And a lot of the legacy from the Commonwealth Games is not just within sports, obviously, you’ve got the Velodrome we’ve got the Etihad Stadium as it is now and everything that has been built around Ancoats. But it’s also what it did for culture. And I think that is yes, I think there is sport is at the heart of it. But there is some brilliant complimentary programme which has taken place as well. Which is, is being run and I think that that I think will be really exciting for the city. Where as, I think the sport in Birmingham is like obviously this, you know, it’s a big cricket and community as well. It’s really, really multicultural community. They’re two football teams and one in the Premier League. One not doing so well, but I’m sure we’ll be back to it one day, I probably need to establish which of the two I have soft allegiance to, I’ll probably end up going for Birmingham City just because it’s… I just think that this is the chance to sort of grow above and beyond. But you know, it’s it’s, yeah, I think I will find at some point an opportunity…

Kathryn: Anyway, you’re already writing the script for your Welsh language film, you didn’t have time to do rugby. I mean, I know you’re excellent at multitasking. But even you have to find your limit.

Jon: Absolutely.

Kathryn: Well on behalf of the Board, and I’m certain everybody at HOME, thank you for everything you’ve done. Ever since I’ve joined you’ve been just a joy for me and such a friend. And I always knew I could swing up go “what do I need to know about this” and get “oh, it’s just a honestly you don’t know,  just these three things”. And it’s just been a joy. So thank you so much.

Jon: Thank you. It’s been brilliant.

Kathryn: And and this is really good, because obviously no one can see that, I’m just about to start crying. So that’s even better. So thank you, Jon. If I think of any more questions, I’ll add it to your podcast ‘Beehives and Beers’ with Jon Gilchrist.

Jon: No one wants to listen to that.

Kathryn: I would!

Jon: Okay, we’ve got one listener.

Kathryn: Well, Dave would also pretend, anyway, thank you so much.

Jon: Thanks, Kathryn.