Cultural Conversations at Mansion House

Cultural Conversations are a series of debates from the Mansion House funded by the Genesis Foundation and hosted by William Russell, Lord Mayor of the City of London.

These conversations bring together leading figures from the UK’s cultural scene, as part of the Lord Mayor’s focus on the power of arts and culture. They aim to provide thought-provoking insights and stimulate meaningful discussions on key issues of our time.

For a healthy society, open debate and the challenging of orthodoxies are essential. The Genesis Foundation is delighted to support the Lord Mayor’s series of discussions that will examine critical areas of the intersection between the arts and society, and the role of art in transforming communities and individuals.”

John Studzinski CBE

The New Future: Art and Culture in the Making of a Vibrant Economy

The sixth and final Cultural Conversation was held at the Mansion House, London in September 2021, as a hybrid live and online event. The panel was chaired by Will Gompertz, Director of Arts and Learning, Barbican, in conversation with Tarek Iskander, Artistic Director & CEO, Battersea Arts Centre; Alderman William Russell, Lord Mayor of the City of London; John Studzinski CBE, Founder & Chairman, Genesis Foundation; Kully Thiarai, Creative Director & CEO, LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture; and Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Singer, Songwriter, Cellist.

They examined how we can build a more positive, inclusive, dynamic future for the arts – not just in London, but across the country, and how regional partnerships and collaborations between culture and commerce contribute to jobs, skills, innovation and creativity.

Young People & The Arts: Making Space and Opening Doors

In July 2021, the Young People & The Arts panel discussion was chaired by Gemma Cairney, in conversation with Cherry Eckel, Artist and Advisory Group member at Boundless Theatre; Neil Griffiths, Chief Executive at Arts Emergency; Montana Hall, Founder of Run the Check and Trustee at The Photographers Gallery; Renee Odjidja, Curator: Youth Programmes at Whitechapel Gallery; Abdul Shayek, Artistic Director at Tara Theatre; and Lemn Sissay OBE, Poet, Playwright and Broadcaster.

The panel explored how young people, especially those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, can have better access to the arts both as careers and as audience members, and what the cultural and business sectors are doing to create sustainable employment. 

Culture, Technology and Innovation

The first conversation in William Russell’s second year as Lord Mayor of the City of London took place online in May 2021. The panel was chaired by Farah Nayeri, in conversation with Javaad Alipoor, Artistic Director, Javaad Alipoor Company; Daniel Birnbaum, Artistic Director, Acute Art; Sarah Ellis, Director Digital Development, Royal Shakespeare Company; Suhair Khan, Strategic Projects, Google; and Rich Waterworth, General Manager UK & EU, TikTok.

They discussed how technology has democratised culture and sustained society during Covid-19 and how cultural institutions can continue to push the bounds of technological innovation in this digital era.

Philanthropy in the Arts

The third Cultural Conversation was held online in September 2020. Chaired by journalist and broadcaster Kirsty Lang; with Artistic Director of the Young Vic, Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE; Senior Global Director at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Dame Julia Peyton-Jones OBE; President of the Royal Academy of Arts, Rebecca Salter PRA; Chair of Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota CH:; and Founder and Chairman of the Genesis Foundation, John Studzinski CBE.

The conversation explored philanthropic responses to today’s arts crisis, and examined the difference between arts funding and the role of philanthropy in the UK, the US and Europe; how COVID-19 has affected arts funding; and how we should ensure that philanthropic giving is ethical.

Designing a Museum for London’s Future

The second Cultural Conversation was held online in June 2020. Chaired by Tim Marlow OBE, Chief Executive and Director of the Design Museum; with designer, Asif Khan MBE; and Sharon Ament, Director of the Museum of London. Focusing on the new Museum of London, which is scheduled to open in West Smithfield by 2024, the conversation examined the broader role that museums have in place-making and shaping the future of cities.

Art for social change

The first debate was held in February 2020 and was chaired by John Studzinski CBE. It addressed ‘Art for Social Change’ and explored the potential for artists to bring people to rethink and reframe their values and behaviour.

Members of the panel taking part were:

  • Farooq Chaudhry OBE, Co-founder and Producer of Akram Khan Company
  • Chichi Nwanoku OBE, Founder, Artistic and Executive Director, Chineke! Orchestra, Europe’s first majority Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) orchestra
  • Jemma Read, Head of Bloomberg’s Philanthropy & Engagement Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC)
  • Indhu Rubasingham MBE, Artistic Director, Kiln Theatre, Kilburn

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Left to right: John Studzinski CBE, Indhu Rubasingham MBE, Jemma Read, Chichi Nwanoku OBE and Farooq Chaudhry OBE