Day 1


My first day as Executive Director of Tees Valley Arts (TVA) started with none of the apprehension that normally comes with beginning a new job. Partly that’s down to my familiarity with the organisation, the fact that my email has been buzzing with communication for weeks now as the small but busy team here and the board of Trustee work hard to ensure TVA continues to thrive. Mostly though my sense of anticipation at taking over the reigns of the organisation comes from the knowledge that we are building upon the good foundations. My predecessor, Rowena Somerville worked with great energy and dedication to the organisation for 18 years. Alongside her, and before her, many others have helped to ensure that TVA has achieved much in its 30-year history and demonstrating that the arts are a fundamental part of how we find our way through the world.

This is an exciting time for the arts in our region. Together with the recently appointed Head of Culture for the Tees Valley Combined authority and cultural professionals across the region, TVA will play a key role in setting out our region’s ambition to become City of Culture in 2025. I think our region can do it. I know we are going to give it everything we’ve got and will certainly achieve much in the process. Playing a part in this process, in seeing art make a real and positive difference to the way we live our lives is what motivates me to get up in the morning (although the cat jumping on my bed at 5.00am also plays its part).

I’m not from this region originally, having been born in Leicestershire, but I moved up to work in Middlesbrough some 15 years ago. This is my home now and I’m passionate about being an advocate for it with whomever I meet. My first morning in the job has provided just such an opportunity as I delivered a lecture to a group of 16 delegates from the Wuxi Institute of Art and Technology in China. A fascinating discussion followed (thankfully with a translator), as we shared ideas about how the arts make for a better society in two very different parts of the world. It was a privilege to share with our delegates some of the ways that TVA has been achieving this over the course of its history and will continue to do so.

James is Tees Valley Arts’ Executive Director. He has previously worked as Senior Curator at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art and as Co-Director of the art project NEW LINTHORPE. He is currently completing a PhD examining the cultural history of Teesside.