« Desert Island Discs

Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate

2020-08-10 | 🔗
Maria Balshaw is the Director of Tate, overseeing four major art galleries: Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate Modern and Tate St Ives. Maria was born in 1970 in Birmingham, and grew up in Northampton, where her father, Walter, was a parks officer, and her mother, Colette, was a teacher. She read English and Cultural Studies at the University of Liverpool and fell in love with the newly opened Tate Liverpool at Albert Dock. After working as an academic for almost a decade, she changed career and headed a government campaign to inspire creativity in schools. In 2006, she became director of the Whitworth gallery in Manchester, where she promoted works by women artists and oversaw a major redevelopment and expansion of the building. The Whitworth won the Art Fund Museum of the Year award in 2015. Maria also took on the roles of Director of Manchester City Galleries, and Director of Culture for Manchester City Council. The Observer called her “a northern powerhouse in her own right”. She took over leadership of the four Tate galleries from Sir Nicholas Serota in June 2017, and is the first woman to hold this role. Maria has two children from her first marriage and lives in Kent and London with her second husband, Nick Merriman, Director of the Horniman Museum. DISC ONE: Ghost Town by The Specials DISC TWO: Wild is the Wind by David Bowie DISC THREE: It's a Sin by Pet Shop Boys DISC FOUR: Love Hurts by Emmylou Harris with Gram Parsons DISC FIVE: Hope There's Someone by Antony and the Johnsons DISC SIX: Cantelowes by Toumani Diabaté DISC SEVEN: Waiting for the Great Leap Forward by Billy Bragg DISC EIGHT: Crown by Stormzy BOOK CHOICE: Vickery’s Folk Flora: an A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants by Roy Vickery LUXURY ITEM: A full set of flower and vegetable seeds CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Waiting for the Great Leap Forward by Billy Bragg Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
BBC sounds music. Radio, podcasts, hello, I'm lauren, and this is the desert island discs. Podcast. Every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert, island rights reasons. The music is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening, the castaway this week- is the director of tate maria balshaw her position, at the helm of the full galleries, makes her one of the most powerful people in the art world and, by extension, british culture she's likened tits,
success in bringing contemporary art into the mainstream to sport, saying contemporary art used to be like fencing. Now, it's like athletic eggs. She better get a running shoes on them at the time of recording her galleries set for their own super saturday with all four tastes. To reopen for the first time since the corona virus lockdown, there are big chance, just facing the cultural sector, locally challenge has always been part of her brief she's champion radical, creativity ever since the explosive sculpture of artist Cornelia parker opened her mind one saturday afternoon in nineteen ninety one and put her on the track that led to her current career? She turned around fortunes of manchester art gallery and the cities wit with gallery bringing in war thousand new works and doubling visitor numbers, though for her, it's not just about how many people visit it's about who they are. She says I am. Committed to making the widest range of people feel that takes us something to offer them. I want to China
the social and economic disadvantage that makes people think that they can't come into an institution, even though its free murray about you- welcome to desert island discs. It's lovely to be with you learn. Thank you for inviting me such a pleasure, so tape modern britons eyes and liverpool all about to open the doors for the first time since lockdown. How does this moment feel it feels very citing, but also without sense of trepidation, and I have to say in many ways these past few months have been more active than ever as we ve been reaching paypal, digitally sharing works from the collection online, supporting children's learning, but I think the bay This feeling is a sense of excitement that the public are going to back into our spaces, the art works waiting for them and the idea
We're bringing those out works. Bringing art into everybody's lives is hugely important to you. Why does it matter to to us as individuals and as wide a society that that everyone should have access to art for centuries was was part of the life of the elites and so much a part of the life of ordinary people and for me. Seeing the world through the eyes of an artist, is opened my mind to different possibilities, different from where I was growing up and artists perspectives, our world challenges to think about new ideas, and they take us two different places so whether they say in the gallery or museum or whether they say on their phone or on the street they may verandah don't really care where people see it, but I think the human practice of making art belongs to all of us
maria it's time to get stuck into something that you ve been curator very carefully for us, of course, your music list, what your first diskin why have you chosen it today, my first the specials and it's ghost town and I chose it because I have a particularly visceral memory of standing on the edge of georgians right in abingdon park in northampton, and the music was ghost town, and I was there because my dad was the head of the port. surface in northampton and he had to licence the fair and the great benefit of for me, as an eleven year old, was the immense uncle free passed all rights. So I spent a lot of time in a fair and my I'm a limo possession. I extended family, very political, and I really nice. This song was about the such a government and the sight of english society and It made the has stand on the back of my neck because it was both effortlessly cool and it was all
so about protest, and that's very important to me. Is this place the specialists and goes term maria I'll show you brought up in northampton. Human color was a tea and, as you said, your dad Walter was a pump keeper. So tell me, little bit about your mom first time did she influence you ve grown up, my moms
the middle child of six irish catholic family, very noisy, but she's, the quiet middle one. She worked as a teacher whole career. She also started to coach gymnastics when we if two northampton for my dad's job and she took me to it- gymnastic class I am sure, to help burn off some of my considerable energy. She was a steady calm, really warm since, throughout my upbringing and interfered hi singly little in my education, given that she was each has she just thought I would get on and do the work, because you know that's what you do. We very place and she was a great role model is a working woman. You said that you dad was the opposite of your mom so not quiet and also a very good swear till he looked at more basin. Well, it's and how to talk about him at the moment, because
part of my lockdown has been very sad because that died in his care home. We should have very strange experience and because our and as we mourn collectively. I haven't thought about that, and I would have liked to go to the pop when most evenings and had a wide network of her friends. and we were only eight of us at his funeral and he as he said, he was an excellent swear. so would sometimes have to go with that and sit in his office, and I honestly thought aged eight or nine that my dad went the office to get on the phone and shouts at people often swearing, because It was the main thing you seemed to do this swearing was never rude, but it was just very colorful and he was much loved by his coworkers, because would always say as it was, and I hope that at least in my best moments. I embody some dance, energy and centre
if you do, have to be bloody minded to get things done, but that there's more mums, sensitive gentleness and nothing. She gave me a great gift of calmness. to ask you about another member of your family. Your anti sills until christmas presents because I know that they were big deal for you. Well. I remember nineteen eighty three. She bought me to novels the color purple and meridian by Alice walker. The color purple aspire play I started to read it on christmas morning. If I come across anything like it and I'll just go in the corner of the living room with all the noise of family. around me and just read it from start to finish, given that I ended up doing my phd on african american literature and then visual culture. It started there with a gift of those books, and she worked in the arts. She was a community arts worker and then director and she was Trailblazer for me, it's time
go to the music second disk today. This is David Bowe way. Wild. Is the wind and while, my auntie self was married to fill higgs He was a massive influence on me: east descent, make set types of music that he thought I needed to know about, and one particularly brilliant typepad boeing station to station on one side and young americans on the other and a list and listened and listened to that. So it's remembering phil, higgs, music education and also because It was for me one of the great nonconformists somebody who's
created himself over and over again What David, we and wild is the wind. Maria ball showed the town that you grew up in northampton didn't have an art gallery, but of course everyone has a cultural hinterland. How would you describe yours, much of mine through channel four, and I the vividly seeing Derek jarman
films on channel for staying up late. I think I have to get special permission for men and added grumpily gone to bed, not wanting to watch outfits and some things like germans, films, spoke of under the universe, which I didn't say in northampton around. May, but I could imagine curiosity around foreign language. Films have never left me closer to home now was he were schoolgirl in Northampton? And while you are, you said you were rebellious but didn't want to break the rules. So, presumably how to get round them now. Did you do that? Well alike, learning, but I didn't like being told what to do will think so. There was a go uniform policy, obviously, and I wouldn't absolutely break. but I would marginally defy it every day, so I would put bright, yellow socks. Oh, I would wear a scarf tucked into my shirt instead of a tie and wait until called out. Of course, he would
expressing yourself three. What you were at school in your style is still much commented on what job, I wonder, do The close that you were do for. You now obviously does an element of enjoyment and play their, but is also it way of articulating view. You are to the world YA. Think fur most women are applied Alma, it makes a statement about who I am makes a statement about not conforming and the thing that I You know I do most often is where very very closely includes the endless coming trade on my gold chase. When I was appointed just the remark or why about about the colorful dress, it ought to be applied to and as well as women and not conduct, sometimes feel exasperated freely. You know, I'm running a museum, I'm not declared source, and I don't like it in that it takes up the pleasure the thai find in playing with identity. I think the maids and sing that you used the word alma, because I wonder about
those of us who have changed our cultural messier actually for people, like me in and perhaps light you tell me if I'm wrong, you know your clothes, articulate your qualify, patients to be where you are to some extent in actually people whose belonging is never questioned the day. We have to think about it. You perhaps I think, nuts, an absolutely episodic observation, and I know that when I was young, and perhaps had even greater degree of banks, I'd say about my senses. even allowed to be in here I used to dress, more formally because I felt I was too young and didn't have the right kind of task background. Didn't have to buy educational background, who sought to dress up to prove that I had a right to be there, and certainly since I've been it eight of fully embrace my sense of train this with the dress and that lex in some ways my increased comfort. that after all the
is of what to me, since I am qualified for the job: no, I still have a sense of impostor anxiety, the town sweet, music, Maria. This is a patch of boys. It's a sin! I loved music and I especially loved their collaborations, with Derek jarman In my final year I did a cultural studies course in liverpool, which me to write about any color phenomenon, and I wrote about television that video and it got me a first That meant I could go on and do my masters and phd, but the real reason it's on my list is because dancing to the patch up boys, music in gay clubs, was how I spent my teenagers. So absolutely epic disco
the picture these and existing. Take me back to your days at university in liverpool. Maria ball shows it true that you went to the tate the first day you arrived. I did my parents took me up and will take you out for lunch. So off we headed to the albert doc and tighter just. and it was the first time, had been into a gallery with my parents, and there was a man
in display from the collection, and I still remember the dolly's loves to telephone at the centre of it, and it became my local You know I nursed student hangovers in the gallery. It was a very well in place a new when friends visited me. We would go that when my parents came, we would go there, so I'm very, very fond if the title so following your resume and phd at sussex university after liverpool, you then became research fellow and lecturer in visual culture at the university of birmingham in nineteen. Ninety seven, you married your first husband historian, Liam Kennedy and by two thousand you were a mum of two jake and lily. How did being apparent change. You I had an incredible struggle to have jake had three miscarriages before I had him, and and I feel in that I went from being a young woman to an adult because
I experienced something I couldn't control. Nobody could explain to me. None of my female friends had ever talked about miscarriage. And yet we now know that so many women experience it. So it was a real pain to overcome and then jake survival and then quite soon, afterwards lilies and are taken. For years to write off. My thesis wrote the last chunk of it in less than four months, because I had a limited amount of time to do the work, because I wanted be with children and also gave me such joy and pleasure, and then and I realize now it was very unusual to be an academic of the age. I was cheese to have chill and I did so alongside a great friend Helen LA valle-
Who is now a pro vice for education, education of manchester and she and I were us young academic women and we kept each other going and weak and of gm into it, because we had no idea how hard it was going to be. But out of that came a much greater clarity of focus about the rest of my life. That's have some music. What's next This is all the days when I did work in birmingham alongside my dear friend Helen, and we were in him american studies department, and we were obsessed with women's country music, I think all of them from dolly three tee ass? He climbed the whole love than a real feminists, and so many of their songs are absolutely inspirational to us. Ass women, but my very favor of all is Emily house pick Emmylou, harris and gram. Parsons love hurts the
The and it and the I love the It's the and the Emily harris and ground persons with love hurts maria I'll show. You ve said that you can pinpoint the moments when you realise that your future lay in the visual arts, so is ninety Anyone and you saw- Cornelia park is a landmark installation called dark matter. Why did it have such a profound impact on me what it was because it was completely unlike
anything I've ever seen before and I'm not sure it can and for me, a career in the ox, but transformed my thinking about what art even worse, because it's not in a frame. It is a garden shed filled with all the paraphernalia of the typical shed exploded so they set it up in a failed, got the help of the territorial all made to blow up this shed scattering the fragments all over the failed and them, the team of volunteers. She she collect, support bits and reassembled them hung from wires. From the ceiling around the light of this a single bulb. So it's unexplored John suspended in the air. It shadows, all the way around that room and the night before in the pub somebody said this is The strange thing at high calorie ought to go and see her, and so if we went- and I had
no idea what I would find when I got there, but it took my breath away. Yes, lazy would go on to work with Cornelia and a major retrospective of her work at the wit with art gallery your head hunted to work, then you would have for decades a jew in that time undertook a massive renovation and expansion of the gallery. What did you want? The the ox? actual changes that you are making to the gallery to achieve the galleries. On the edge of the city centre in a park, had this amazing founding mission that it should be for the perpetual gratification of the people of manchester and the talks and gardens were part of the offer in the late nineteenth century, but that had gotten down the years. So when I arrived, there was a really high fence separate the gallery from its own park, and it fails his fellow failed in side, and he should amount, does speak
those communities in all their diversity, but with the fence around to it, was looking inwards. So the architect sure changes were all about opening it up to its park surrounding, so that you could see. Inside and outside, and we worked with wonderful architects numa who did a beautiful job in particular created a new wing that extends out into the trees. It feels thought you floating in the tree tops when you sit in a cafe- and I sat there one day and so a little boy on a skater push himself really fast down the path that lead towards salaries entrance. You come in through an art garden now and his dad was running fast as he could to keep up with him. Ass. He scooter towards the entrance, the doors gently opened and he scooted overweighted I'm, a sore even greater alarm on the face of his father, but then
when the visit assistance just waved and and welcome the doubt in his well, and I thought we ve done the right thing here. If a child can scoot and the gallery, its genuinely open to its public the perfect time to, moment for some music. This is your fifth track today. It sent me in the johnson's hope, there's someone- and I chose this because, The first year that I was in manchester was a time tumultuous. And for me and I'd moved the chill, I made the city move, their schools made house move jobs. And I also separated from my first husband and thence the relationship with my now husband, nick I I to to this album for the whole of the year. It kept me going through an incredibly difficult time in my life, and so it makes me think of my lovely husband. Neck
because he was the some one who took care of me. First as a friend and then later, as a husband over someone to take care of me when know we lack of Javier Solana, who say my heart, free nice to win and tie. the good and only and the johnson's hope, there's someone murray about sure the wit with was named the art funds. Museum of the year in twenty fifteen and staged many notable exhibitions and events there. What people looking for? Do you think? Because
this is the relationship with the artists and their desire to have a kind of creative perspective, but we are also asking the public to engage with it. How do you know if they will? I think you have to trust and welcome interest, I think, go together if they're wearing well, she's they'll go on a long journey. So you have to trust that an artist what will speak to people hearts as well as their head. So I think, for a long time We imagine that you had to explain the artwork to people What do you do need? I think, some of guiding points to get your head in what's going on, nobody likes to Felix baffled, infantile something, but you don't need to talk. Everybody, everything because actually the artwork is about. makes you feel and a good response to an all work. An exhibition is hating it just does much his liking it because I I really don't like this is an incredibly powerful emotional response and then having to think-
but why you don't like something? You would be a very big sheila human being, if you liked all out it's all so different and I think that's where we're, intensive what goes on in allow me to museums now when more adventurous and we trust more in people's own in best intelligence and curiosity, for some music maria. What's next and wisely chosen this today, this one speaks to my time, in manchester and some adventurous journeys. I was able to do. The olympics It happened in the uk and twenty twelve and the cultural organizations were asked to be part of the national cultural celebration of the world. Coming to the uk. We, set ourselves. The task of making a group exhibition that would celebrate the contemporary art of west africa. I was able to go to molly with my daughter lily. He was
seven years old and for a long time ago, seemed to the music from that country so this song is despite humanity party and its could count allows and its most incredible. Lifting of the riff from many more colonies, music from fistful of tolerance and alone The densest into cultural exchange, going on there a molly and musician, taking more economies signature moment, but may absolutely marlene
humanity, a and can't lose murray about showing twenty seventeen you left manchester to come south and take on your role as directive, all four tate galleries. You follow two cynical asserted and you're. The first woman director have significant. Is that fact to you well the huge honor to be selected as the directive tight nick done a remarkable twenty eight years that the tight- and led to transformation of how all of us on the stand out and what we think museums, afore. So new. Personally? I was really really on. to be working at the institution. I consider to be the anyone in the world, and it was also fantastic to be the first woman, in the sense that many other women that I know and many that I didn't know got in touch.
To say how important they felt it was as a milestone because them, still very. Very few. Women leading museums anywhere in the world and of many museums in the? U k, I'm the only one leading a national museum, and so there's another of me? That wants to say that shouldn't be so, and I look forward to the time when no one remarks on the gender of director? If a man is it when did it's just his name, and we need to get to that point. and we do in terms of people of color leading our national organizations, because there are known at the moment and that doesn't reflect the uk as it is now have some music. It's your seventh dis today. What if he chosen its billy bank and waiting for the great leap forward Billy's been important to me, since my aunt made me a now: that's what I'd call protest, music type,
at the height of the minor strike olive all of his me sick, but also- It's now a song that reminds me so much of my son Jake and got some lion and lily and Lauren. My god daughter, leaping forward in the kitchen to this thy love his music. Now just as much as I do south eyes these bodies, because you can't be wise back
frank and waiting for the great leap forwards. Maria ball show it's almost time to cast you away, but before we do, let's have a look at the future, fatigued mass The challenges ahead of you know redundancy had been announced at the galleries. But there is a question mark over two hundred jobs at tate enterprises limited that's a commercial subsidiary owned by takes that operates. Retail publishing and catering within your galleries, and the union representing workers who are affected wants taped to intervene. Will you we have intervened and whip almost unique in the we run all our own shops and cafes, and that means that everything that people experience at tate is it reflects our values. But that means whim. We are facing fifty percent fewer visitors coming to our galleries, for probably quite one time that and sadly, at the moment trading business is too big and because we want to open all the cafe in the shops in the same way. So we are-
sought him itself about and redundancies. But we have used, as each of our own reserves, as we can to preserve the jobs throughout this period, so stuff were kept on a hundred and pay all the way through locked down- and we ve delayed this this period of consultation. For as long as we can and we don't want to lose any stuff, but we know- have to otherwise the business won't be able to trade, and we will make sure that as to return and as we get properly post covert, they will be given the first option to come back and workforce, as we recognise the hard work that they do and how valuable they are to us temple more choice area. What are we gonna for your final disk today? We gonna hit stormzy crown and this song is for the amazing group of teenagers who have been part of my life for the last five or six years is lilies circle of friends, stephen in paris,
Grace american sonny clive, who listened to storm, say and dave, and many other black musicians, and this song, I think more than any other, speaks to the challenges of making change. Happen stormzy himself been extraordinary in terms of committing resources to allow young people to have scholarships to go to cambridge and to supporting action around race. Equality This also speaks of the challenges he faces in carrying. You know that work forward so it's a very serious and nothing important song
his mama, the newton sure the answers are the. I have my reasons: life as his lessons chachi the grave count, all my blessings but heavy is that, where the stones, z and crown maria Balshaw it's time to cast you away to your island, will give you the bible, the complete works of shakespeare and a book of your own. What will you take with you while unlikely you punish odds rather than the bible, because my dad was a confirmed agnostic and he was very opposed to the bible in particular, so he would look down having recently I do not approve if I took that, but is another spirit.
tax- and it would help me with my yoga- saw hope that so k and, of course the book I would like is not novel. I'd like victories folk floor, which tells you the stories and folklore as well the uses of plants certain. You can have that. It's yours, you can also look she item. Of course we ve sent away lots of art galleries and even outworks in the past. What will you be taking with you? Well, I'd like to take with me the ability to cry, eight something I regard as in our work, which is very germans garden prospect cottage in dungeness and I'm hoping that does that ireland will be like the shingle beaches of dungeness, because I, like that sense of desolation, rather than a kind of luxurious golden sandy beach. So, unlike the flowers, the two in that, garden, but also some vegetable seeds? And finally, if you had to just save- one of your age discs, which would you go for it would have to be Billy bags waiting for the great leap forward
because it reminds me of my children and my step since, while button Lucas and all of them live not music. Does it reminds me of my whole family dispute. asia, socialists, everyone, I'm because it's a record about optimism, worry about your thing. He very much for sharing your desert island discs with us. Thank you learn the I very much hope you enjoyed my conversation with Maria you'll, find a lot of artists and how does the disks? back tooting, damien, tooting, Damien, beta jeremy, eat and della and and emmon can listen to all of those additions on BBC. Since this is the last as ireland discs enough
hurried run and we're taking our usual five weeks summer break but in the meantime, will be dropping a classic episode into your podcast feed until we're back on air in september. We hope you enjoy them, the the It's me, gregg, genotype load from that funny. History, podcast you're dead
make big news. We are back once again combining the talents of comedians and expert historians as we explore stuff like ancient egyptian pyramids genghis khan nineteenth century vampire. Literature such for your dear to me on the bbc sounds up.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-07.