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When a local RSA fellow and I came up with the idea for having in-depth conversations with people about their personal story and what drives them, we had no idea if other people would find it as interesting as we do. Well it turns out that eavesdropping on a good conversation is something we all enjoy, and this has now blossomed into a regular event

Which is how I ended up one lunchtime in March facing Vikki Heywood; chair of the RSA, previously chief executive of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and chief mover and shaker in the UK theatre world. 

Download: In Conversation with Vikki Heywood (MP3, 30MB)

Of course it was a doddle talking to someone with such a deep interest in so many subjects and the willingness to engage honestly in conversation - even in public. What was surprising was to hear about the journey that took Vikki from her liberal but decidedly not academic early years into the world of work; how she found her metier in theatre production, with all its complexities and excitement; and why she finally moved from behind the scenes to centre stage, taking the helm at one of our most prestigious arts organisations - and at a time when it was in turmoil. 

What came through time and again during our discussion was Vikki’s love of her work, the passion and integrity with which she approaches it, and the down-to-earth, fair manner with which she approaches people. I get the feeling she is someone who treats people from all walks of life in a similar way and has no truck with pomp. This is clearly a woman who gets things done and has proven herself an inspirational leader, but who also understands deeply the power of collaboration and teamwork. 

Perhaps the most enlightening part of our conversation was when we talked about the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, one of the UK’s top drama schools and currently undergoing a huge development project. Vikki obviously gets a real kick out of seeing young people reach their potential and making sure they have what they need to achieve it. 

I for one am delighted that the RSA is led by someone who embodies what the organisation stands for - curiosity, education in the widest sense, learning for all, access to the arts. I also look forward to chatting to her again about her hopes, dreams and achievements. In the meantime, listen to the conveRSAtion yourself and let us know what you think.

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