In just half a dozen years, Young People in the Arts has established itself as a driving force for aspiring arts administrators. Harry White reports
Six years ago I interviewed three fresh-faced founders of a fledgling arts organisation for CM. The organisation was Young People in the Arts (YPIA) and, despite it being a chilly evening on London’s South Bank, the atmosphere was warm with enthusiasm and ideas. Nicki Wenham, Andreas Flohr and Lis Lomas chatted animatedly about YPIA’s purpose, facilitating networking opportunities and experiences for junior- level arts administrators frustrated by the seemingly impenetrable ivory tower of contacts commandeered by senior managers of the industry.
Since that first interview, attending a YPIA event has become practically de rigueur for any young, aspiring arts administrator. With more than 1,360 subscribers, it has organised in excess of 70 networking events, including lectures, panel debates and concerts. Big hitters such as Sir Peter Bazalgette, Sir Nicholas Kenyon and Jude Kelly have all actively supported the organisation and its influence and clout have grown exponentially since inception back in 2008.
Its founders are now, of course, no longer junior newcomers to the arts world and, back in August, Wenham and Flohr (Lomas left a number of years ago) announced they would be stepping down to let new management accompany the organisation on its next journey. ‘As we’ve both become increasingly busy with our full-time careers there was a feeling that we needed to find a new way for YPIA to be able to do its important work’, says Flohr. ‘Having new directors just made sense; to inject fresh ideas to keep the YPIA concept alive and among the generation that it has been most useful to in the past.’
Both Flohr and Wenham look back warmly on YPIA’s development over the years. What are they most proud of? ‘I think the incredible speakers we have had throughout the years, all who have been willing to give their time up for free as they really saw the need for the organisation’, says Wenham. ‘I think also seeing a full room of people fully charged and engaged in conversation after our talks, meeting their fellow peers and people across the industry face to face and networking. At the end of the day, that is what the organisation is about.’
YPIA’s new directors are Katya Kazakevich, Stella Toonen and Imogen Morris. All three are clearly driven and ambitious, but relatively new to the industry; very reminiscent of YPIA’s founders in the group’s embryonic stages. What are the challenges of taking over such a successful organisation? ‘Over the years, YPIA has achieved an excellent standard of events and we want to maintain that standard,’ says Kazakevich. ‘We’ve set the bar high for ourselves, but we have a fantastic committee to support us and make sure that we have exciting and varied events each month. We’re confident that we’ll do well’.
‘YPIA definitely has the scope to develop a great deal’, says Toonen. ‘We’ll continue to expand our programme and membership scheme, and our website will be a growing project too. We envisage more fundamental developments in the years to come ‒ broadening our fundraising strategy, and expanding into other cities in the UK and beyond’.
‘Our events are the only part of YPIA that don’t happen online ‒ all other communication and networking is facilitated through our website and social media’, adds Morris. ‘We hope to create a page that provides for the needs of our members, where they can learn about the arts sector, find inspiration by watching recordings of previous events, and find each other in order to continue networking online’.
Looking forward into 2015, YPIA’s new directors are bullish about going from strength to strength. ‘We’re continuing our strategy of helping young arts professionals ‒ only we’re thinking bigger’, says Kazakevich. ‘With the new season comes a revised membership scheme with added benefits and new partnerships. During the first half of this season our speakers have included the directors of the Royal Opera House and the V&A. And we’ve got some very big names still to come’. Here’s to another successful six years.