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Taking off the white gloves

10 Dec 2020

Taking off the white gloves

In this series of blogs, I am looking back at three events we ran this year, the knowledge we have gained from them, and thinking about how this can be applied in our organisations.

Last week, I thought about agile and creative leadership with Heavy lifting in the ambiguity space, reflecting on our event with Moira Sinclair in May.

In this second reflection, I’d like to think about barriers, how we can identify them, and how we can address them.

We have encountered countless hurdles this past year that have forced us to rethink plans or stop them all together. While the majority of these have been completely outside of our control, there are some obstacles in our organisations that we can command and therefore overcome.


In October, we invited Derek Humphries from the DTV Group to talk about the lessons that he had learnt about fundraising from art.

Derek shared an anecdote from his time working as a professional artist, producing books of visual art. When a gallery exhibited some of his work, they insisted that visitors donned a pair of white gloves before so much as touching Derek’s books, never mind flicking through their many pages. He lamented that this was a barrier to engagement for visitors; there was a lack of ability to experience the textures, and the feel of the pages, that were part of the art.


"I felt like the white gloves were getting in the way of the full richness of the experience that I wanted people to have."


Derek related this back to fundraising, and how we can create barriers to fully engaging with potential funders and donors, but I think the analogy of the white gloves can be applied to many aspects of what we do as cultural organisations.

It reminded me of when I heard Alan Lane, Artist Director of Slung Low Theatre Company, talk about obstacles to cultural experiences:


“Everyone should have access to the best cultural life, and all the things getting in the way of that are our enemies.”


When we think about what the white gloves are in our organisations, they can be multiple and varied. Think about your mission and your purpose – what elements of your organisation do not help you reach them, or actively go against them – these are your white gloves.  Outside of a lack of funding security, they could be a reluctance to change or adapt, a bureaucracy that holds up projects, a skills gap that hasn’t been addressed, a lack of training or support, a capacity issue.


So here’s the thing – I want to help you take off the white gloves.


Maybe the white gloves are your board. Is it big enough? Is it too big? Does it work the way it’s supposed to? Have you the right skills to carry you through recovery? This is something we could help with through our surgeries, health checks, training and Board Matching Programme.

Are the white gloves an issue with inadequate training, skills and development? Let me know what you want to know more about through our events, training and resources in 2021 and I will do my best to help you address this.

Whatever they are, pick up the phone, send me an email, ask the question – I’m always here to help you get to an answer (or to go away and try to find one!)


Adam Bradley, Arts Programme Co-ordinator

You can view 'Everything I know about fundraising, I learned through art’ on our Arts Members Area. This is the second  blog in a series of three, reflecting on the knowledge we have gained from bringing voices from outside of NI to our 2020 programme of events.

Our Funders & Partners

Arts & Business NI is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.