Published: May 31, 2022 | Updated: June 1, 2022

“We’ve a lot to bring to the table” says Anna as she hits the ground running in her new role

Dr Anna Farthing, Executive Director of External Engagement, Arts University Bournemouth: “We are a place that turns creativity into careers.”
By Andrew Diprose, editor

It’s a new, and big, job but – just eight weeks after taking up the post – Dr Anna Farthing has hit the ground running.

As Executive Director of External Engagement at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB), her core objectives are to enhance the institution’s role as a civic university and engage key stakeholders.

And key to that is the business community.

She said: “What do we mean by the civic university?

“I’d say an organisation that is genuinely engaged with the local communities around it.

“That includes our neighbours, the education community, and the business community, including small businesses and start-ups, so that we are seen to be useful and relevant.

“In our strategy, the watchwords are around excellence and relevance.

“We want to be innovative, creative and collaborative but really our relevance needs to be excellence and our excellence needs to be relevant.

“You could have excellence but if it’s not relevant to the people around us then we could be accused of being in an ivory tower.

“That’s absolutely not what we want to be.

“We are a place that turns creativity into careers and we are community-makers.

“We make things happen. We make change. We make new products. We make new knowledge.”

The cultural producer and academic began her career as a Theatre Maker, before working in film, heritage, publishing and placemaking as a Creative Director and Consultant with organisations including the National Theatre, English Heritage, National Trust, the BBC and, most recently, the NHS.

Dr Farthing has contributed to major cultural regeneration projects in Hull, Salford, Torquay and Weston-Super-Mare.

She has also helmed successful launch programmes for Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum, Portsmouth’s National Museum of the Royal Navy and M Shed and the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol.

Officially taking up her new post at the beginning of April, Dr Farthing said AUB could offer a huge amount to both the business and wider community.

She said: “A university is a natural place to have data, to hold data and to analyse and interpret that data.

“It’s complicated, difficult and expensive to keep mapping what’s out there.

“We can certainly play a bigger part with that, working with partners.

“There’s perhaps a presumption that as an arts university we are only engaging with the creative industries but actually that’s not the case.

“We’re bringing creativity to finance, to the health sector and to all of those other sectors.

“We’re recently run bespoke workshops with both the NHS and LV= so healthcare and financial services.

“Some people, perhaps, who work in business and innovation might be looking at plastics but they don’t have access to the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP) that goes right from the beginning of plastic.

“We have really deep resources like the materials library, offering something quite unique.”

Dr Farthing’s role also encompasses the regeneration of the Palace Court Theatre, the university’s performance space on Hinton Road in Bournemouth town centre.

The theatre is a major feature of the AUB Strategy and a significant step forward in realising AUB’s ambitions as a civic university.

She is also keen for AUB to act as a neutral space.

Dr Farthing said: “Both the university, and I, can play a convening role.

“We can bring people together in a non-competitive, but more collaborative, environment.

“Sometimes businesses are resistant to coming together because they may feel that they are in competition and that they don’t want to collaborate.

“We know collaboration builds a stronger economy both across sectors and within sectors.

“Those chance conversations can lead to amazing things.

“I’ve just arrived and I’m very aware that a lot of people have done the hard yards.

“Let’s not underestimate that for a business to survive the pandemic – and Brexit – means that they’re already pretty resilient, innovative and resourceful.

“What I’d like to do is to provide a convening space for that knowledge.

“We’re here for knowledge exchange.

“That doesn’t mean that it’s our knowledge and we push it out.

“It means we hold places for people to exchange their own knowledge.

“I see my role as being respectful of what’s been happening here but to lend a shoulder to the wheel and to bring the resources of AUB to the widest number of people.

“That means emphasising the qualities- and the resources – that we have.

“It’s best summed up as our people, our place, our stuff – and we have a lot to bring to the table.”

  • An open event on Thursday June 30 from 4-7 pm is open to all with registration here. Neighbours, peers, colleagues, local creatives, and other interested members of the public are all invited to view AUB’s end of year shows, see the key public engagement buildings on campus, and hear about AUB’s current research and engagement.