Meet the Members

Abigail Pogson

Abigail Pogson – Managing Director, Sage Gateshead

A bit about you: I’ve been working in music all of my adult life and am passionate about arts organisations blending brilliant nights out, chances for people to learn and support for artists to create new work which pushes our artforms forward.  Like so many people at the moment I work from home on zoom and how I miss direct contact with audiences and musicians. The challenge over the past year has been to keep focused on the future, thinking about how we can innovate and develop out of this and how we keep supporting audiences, artists and our communities.

Greatest career success to date: All the times when the lights have gone down in an auditorium full of school children or families and their squeals of excitement lift the roof off the place. For me success is music creating special moments for people, making connections between people, improving people’s health and wellbeing and creating a sense of place and identity.  

Most significant challenge: Inequality. COVID has shone a new kind of light on this huge challenge we have. We need to find a way to address this and music, the arts and culture can play their part in this in so many ways.

 Women’s Day Shoutout: At the moment, it’s my daughter, who will ask out of the nowhere ‘could a girl do that?’ and through this allows me to see things I might have blanked out. There’s still a way to go and her questions remind me of that. 

If you could make 1 change in how the music industry supports women, what would it be? Let’s get our stages gender balanced. There’s so much else to do that it would be reasonable to expect we’d have got this one nailed by now.

Helen Wallace

Helen Wallace – Artistic Director, Kings Place, London

A bit about you: Playing the cello is what got me into this mess. Fresh out of uni and a journalism course, found myself editing The Strad, then BBC Music Magazine; writer, critic and broadcaster, wrote the history of Boosey & Hawkes with baby and toddler in tow, taught Early Years music, became Creative Consultant at Kings Place and went into programming. Now I’m Executive & Artistic Director of Kings Place in Kings Cross, and sit on the board of Manchester Collective. In another life I would have been a gospel singer…

Greatest career success to date: Winning RPS Award for Venus Unwrapped, Kings Place’s year-long series on women composers at Kings Place, and ABO Concert Hall Manager of the Year for it too. It meant so much to me to give a platform to 500 years of creative work by women, to rewrite women back into music history where they have always been, hidden in plain sight. Also, changing career post-45 is something I never dreamed I could do.

Most significant challenge: Shaking up the status quo, and persuading an audience to embrace new experiences: it’s vital to nurture new artists and repertoire, but you need to build trust. I’m early on that journey: humility and curiosity is required by everyone involved.

Women’s Day Shoutout: (person or organisation that inspires or supports you as a women in music): Where do I start? Vanessa Reed, formerly CEO of PRSF, campaigner Vick Bain, Laurie Stras of Musica Secreta, Anna Meredith, Cassie Kinoshi, just two of many female composers rewriting the rule book, the amazing SWAPRA (Supporting Women and Parents in Opera), all the incredible women managing concert venues, music festivals and ensembles in this country: they are a feisty bunch, proud to be in their tribe.  I would add to that long list the wonderful music writers Fiona Maddocks, Alexandra Coghlan, Anna Picard, Kate Romano and Kate Molleson: they have brought fresh perspectives into what was an almost completely male musical discourse.

If you could make 1 change in how the music industry supports women, what would it be? Parents have children, not just women, and it’s a 24/7 job. This is an inconvenient truth, not just in our industry. I’ll never forget composer Sally Beamish saying she used a whole Arts Council grant to pay for child care: can you name me one male composer who has done that?

Suzanne Rolt 

Suzanne Rolt – CEO, St George’s Bristol

A bit about you – A South Wales girl whose heart was captured by music at an early age, went on to study music and then found herself wondering where her place might be in the vastness of the music sector.  Dipped a toe into this world with Welsh National Opera, delivered music festivals in London and then built a home in Bristol (quite literally, a timber framed eco-house). Found my vocation at St George’s, brought up two children while dashing between concerts and travelling far and wide, and have now found a happy place in life where I can immerse myself in music, programming, books, writing and gin.  

Greatest career success to date – Becoming Chief Executive of St George’s and being entrusted with the future of one of the country’s most beautiful and celebrated concert halls.  Reaching the end of a major capital project, being handed the keys and walking slowly around an extraordinary new building that already felt timeless.  A very special moment where I felt that I had achieved something significant in life, something that would continue on long after I’m gone.  Being awarded Association of British Orchestras/ Classical Music Awards Concert Hall Manager of the Year shortly after this was the cherry on the cake. 

Most significant challenge – Thinking of myself as a leader, even after all this time, because I don’t really fit the mould. I can still find it challenging to speak up at meetings where the conversation is dominated by people who are super confident and never short on opinions.  I prefer to listen and reflect on issues before stating my position, but that silence can be construed as not having ideas; the opposite is usually true and there is just too much going on in my head to sort through the strands in double quick time.

Women’s Day Shoutout – Every brilliant woman out there running a music venue, but special shout out to my Operations Director Trish Brown. On the surface we’re not alike – decades apart in age and coming at things from different vantage points – but we’re united by our gritty determination and passion for music.  Her energy ignites my own, her championing of the new wave of young British jazz artists, especially women, has widened my musical tastes (and I hope my love of Schubert and Bach has rubbed off on her), and she’s an expert guide through new technology and social media.  Together, we’re a formidable force for good!   

If you could make 1 change in how the music industry supports women, what would it be? – I’d ask it to continue to check itself, ensuring that women are represented at all meetings, given space, time and listened to; and that decisions are made out in the open, not behind closed doors.  It’s just good business sense.