With Birmingham’s cultural scene booming, Artistic Director and CEO of Birmingham Hippodrome, Fiona Allan, reveals the reasons why Southside is set to become the hub of all the action.
Hi Fiona! Tell us a little bit about your career in the arts so far.
I’ve spent most of my career working in the arts. I have done some work in business consultancy and the film industry, but I’m always drawn back to performing arts. The opening of Sydney Opera House was the moment I became intrigued by the performing arts – I remember watching the opening ceremony on television. I saw my first performance there just months afterwards. It was Cinderella performed by the Australian Ballet, and my six-year-old self thought it was magical.
What does your average day involve?
I have to balance my left side of my brain with my right side a lot, meaning I spend my day switching between looking at numbers on spreadsheets one moment to choosing wonderful new productions to come to our theatre the next!
How have you seen the arts landscape change over the years?
There’s more of a focus on workplace inclusivity and making sure that people from all backgrounds can have access to careers in the arts. In light of recent events within the industry, such as the #MeToo movement, there’s more focus on dignity at work and ensuring an inclusive culture.
What do you think is the most important thing when managing a company?
Getting enough sleep! One of the most important things when working at a senior level – or any level – is self-care.
What are your main aspirations for Birmingham Hippodrome?
Between now and the Commonwealth Games in 2022, we want to take Birmingham Hippodrome through a transformative development which allows us to be a cultural visitor attraction for the city and region. Our vision for the future is clear, to broaden our story and create a ‘living room’ for the city – a place where everyone goes. This will act as a catalyst for the regeneration of Southside, with positive effects for our neighbours.
What can we look forward to at Birmingham Hippodrome in the coming months?
During the festive season, we have the wonderful Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker and our annual pantomime – this year it’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. If you want something a little different, we have Unfortunate: The Untold Story, in our Patrick Studio. This is a musical parody and the untold story of Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid.
What do you think the region offers visitors from further afield?
There’s a fantastic culture offering in Southside and we are proud to be a part of this. As well as being neighbours to the lively Gay Village and Chinatown, there’s such a variety of bars and restaurants, along with world-class arts and culture.
What made you want to work in Birmingham?
It was Birmingham Hippodrome that made me want to work here. I came here for this job and this theatre is nationally known as one of the very best! What I admired about the city is its multiculturalism and diversity. It’s such a young city – you can feel its vibrancy. There’s so much happening here. This city has everything: culture, heritage, food and drink, sport, leisure and retail – everything we need to be a vibrant destination for domestic and international tourism.
What are your favourite things about Southside?
The location is great, we’re in close proximity to transport links, shopping and restaurants but just far enough away so people can come to our Coffee Bar – which is open all day – to relax and work, away from the hustle and bustle. And popping out to Mr Egg at lunchtime for a Mung Bean Wrap of course!
Where are your favourite local hotspots to spend time?
There are a lot of independents in Southside, and I like that. I’ve visited a lot of the restaurants, but I don’t think I could pick just one, there’s such an amazing choice – and 18/81 is a lovely place for a fabulous cocktail.
What excites you about the future of Southside?
The redevelopment of Hippodrome Square excites me. Birmingham Hippodrome wants to encourage mixed community use of that as an outdoor space to enrich the cultural offering in the city.
To find out more about Birmingham Hippodrome, click here.