Speaking to Gillian Moore ahead of ABO22


Southbank Music Director Gillian Moore CBE chairs a discussion with ‘Poverty Safari’ author Darren McGarvey on the opening afternoon of the Association of British Orchestras 2022 (9-11 February) conference on her home turf of Glasgow.

If you haven’t attended then I’ll get in early here and sway your opinion with a partisan view: the ABO Conference is a bit of a special thing. It’s where I reconnected with some kindred spirits, the event where I secured the first coaching work I didn’t actively pursue, and where I received my podcast commission too. All on the same day. Boom.

And, like all good conferences, it’s where I’ve experienced a shift in my thinking. This largely down to the sense of occasion implicit in a conference. Travelling to a different location brings about an enlivening of the senses. We’re more ready for new ideas. Hungry, perhaps.

Sadly, by virtue of managing the unexpected benefits of a coaching and consultancy service delivered largely remotely, attending the conference was difficult and foolhardy. I would have spent money to travel and stay in Glasgow only to conduct my unmovable work via Zoom.

But in anticipation of the first day of the conference I did get a chance to speak to Gillian Moore about the session she was leading.

During our half hour conversation earlier today I deliberately asked her about her musical upbringing. In responding she conveyed passion, confidence, and resolute determination about her position on class and classical music. The story she tells about her amateur musician father turning pro with the RSNO chorus provided me with a framework for her own aspirations for the next generation of music lovers.

She will, I fear, be disappointed that I haven’t reduced the content of the podcast down more than I have. I did sort of promise I’d break it up a bit more when we parted company earlier today. The reality is that I wanted her words in their entirety to be heard in full. It is these words that help shape my future thinking around the kind of work I do in the arts in the years to come.

Persuasive as she is, you probably won’t be surprised that I’ve already bought and started reading the book she’s exploring in the ABO session she’s chairing. That’s what a good conference (and a good leader) does: they bring you back to first principles.

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