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Midlands Higher Education and Culture Forum

The Midlands Higher Education and Culture Forum is a dynamic network that brings together and builds partnerships between Higher Education and the cultural sector across the Midlands. The forum aims to make a significant impact on society and research both regionally and nationally, providing a cohesive view of the landscape in order to advocate effectively.


Steering Group:
Chair: Sam Thorne, Director at Nottingham Contemporary
Rebecca Blackman, Director Midlands (Birmingham), Arts Council England
Mark Done, Senior Manager (Nottingham), Arts Council England
Jacqui O’Hanlon, Director of Education, RSC
Geoff Willcocks, Director of Arts and Culture, Coventry University
Eleonora Belfiore, Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Loughborough University
Carolina Rito, Head of Public Programmes & Research, Nottingham Contemporary
Forum Coordinator: Jennie Syson, based at Nottingham Contemporary

Working Groups

  1. Collaborative Research led by Carolina Rito and Isobel Whitelegg, Programme Co-Director, MA Art Museum & Gallery Studies at University of Leicester
  2. Cultural Education led by Jacqui O’Hanlon and Patricia Thompson, Professor of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences at University of Nottingham
  3. Talent and Employability led by Rob Brannen with Michaela Butter, Director at Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester
  4. Placemaking led by Geoff Willcocks and Eleonora Belfiore with Nic Millington, Chief Executive of Rural Media Charity, Hereford
  5. Health and Wellbeing led by Rebecca Blackman (co-convenor to be defined)


Each of the working groups developed out of conversations at the Forum Launch conference in late 2017. Throughout 2018, the groups will be delivering a series of informal events to host conversations and discuss future steps. These discussions will shape the Forum’s second conference, which will take place November 2018 in Coventry.

Forum Launch – conference, 25 October 2017

This conference at Nottingham Contemporary brought together 150 people from the HE and cultural sectors to identify shared strategic challenges and issues and examined how we might collectively address them. It explored where we can more effectively collaborate and provide mutual benefit; to enable a stronger voice for our sectors in the Midlands and influence policy; to develop a space that enables a single joined up conversation. As anticipated, a number of task focused theme groups emerged from the conference. We began the event with sessions identified as of interest, but were keen for people who wanted to get involved to help shape and focus the forum.  It was intended as practical and useful and not just a talking shop.


Speakers: keynote speaker Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England with Q&A chaired by Sam Thorne; concluding remarks from Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England; Jacqui O’ Hanlon chaired an open discussion around the topic of ‘What’s Next?’


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