Posted: 29 January 2024
Artist Spotlight: Producer, NATALIE CHAN
Natalie is the Director and Chief Executive for Kakilang. She brings her experience working as a producer and fundraiser. Highlights include as Associate Producer for Best of Enemies in the West End and Producer for This Is Not A Show About Hong Kong, which won Fringe First and New Diorama Theatre and Underbelly’s Untapped Award in 2022.
She’s also held the role of Creative Producer for In Good Company, leading the Midlands’ artist development programme with 12 venues, and as General Manager for Creative Youth, where she has won the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy’s Giving Tuesday Competition for Digital Innovation for the charity.
As a committed change-maker to support fellow Global Majority arts leaders, she was an innovator and Agent for Change with Artistic Directors of the Future. Natalie is also a recipient of the Blackbaud Scholarship for completing her Postgraduate Certificate in Philanthropic Studies at the University of Kent in 2022.
She’s supported the company development and produced projects for independent companies Chalk Line Theatre, Chronic Insanity, Nuu Theatre.
She proudly started her career working as Assistant Producer for Theatre503, Spun Glass Theatre, Arch468 and the Bread and Roses Theatre, and through Stage One’s Bridge The Gap scheme.
What was your journey into the world of arts?
I loved going to dance classes and joining the school’s drama society as a child – it helped my confidence. I also enjoy the aspect of collaborating with other people. It was the opportunity to take work to Edinburgh Fringe with my University (Birmingham City University) that opened me up into the whole world of arts administration/producing. After graduating, I began working front of house/box office and took some voluntary producing training opportunities to get started in the industry.
You were brought in as the new Director and CEO of Kakilang last September. Tell us how that’s been so far and what’s coming up in 2024 for you and the organisation?
This new adventure of being CEO has been joyous, challenging, full of learning. I am someone who learns best by doing, so I got on with delivering existing projects that have been handed over to me. We are a team of seven so it’s still very much a hands on role. And doing so, I took note of my strengths and weaknesses, and using any learnings/reflections as I go along, to open up conversations with the team, board, stakeholders and partners to dream up what’s next and how we want to do it. I try to cultivate a culture of learning, openness, honesty, and where there is space for mistakes and failure, and we learn and grow from it.
A few things that I have had to learn quickly (and perhaps not spoken about often) are:
- Communication techniques that enables me to share objectively why things have been challenging, whilst not coming across as blaming.
- Distinguishing people in the industry who have time/space in their lives to build a more genuine friendship for mutual support, and other relationships that are more focused on work collaborations.
You have a background in fundraising as well, having received the prestigious Blackbaud Scholarship. Any top tips for our creative freelancers when it comes to fundraising?
A huge part of fundraising is relationship building, after all, even if an application is submitted via a portal, there is still a human being reading and processing it on the other end.
Where possible, I try to find friendly, informal but low commitment ways, such as going to see a show together, to regularly catch-up and check in on people who I think have the potential to become supporters or are currently supporting our work, as a way of getting to know them better and can more authentically make the ask for a donation when it comes.
One of our regular supporters at Kakilang is newly line managing a larger team in their work (outside of the arts), and I was surprised how much similarity there is with my new challenge as CEO, so we furthered our relationship this way.
My other tip would be build and maintain relationships with the people who might not give financially, but who are advocates for you – those who have shared stuff or introduced you to people – you never know where people will end up in a few years and when they may be in a financial position to support.
Finally, don’t forget to close the loop and always say thank you, and remind people how their support has made a difference. Little things like letting people know the news of your project ahead of a public announcement on social media makes a huge difference and it makes people feel remembered and appreciated in a world where life is busy.
For ACE and other funding applications, there are plenty of resources, such as the successful funding library. Do use it and don’t be afraid ask for help.
What was the last play you saw?
Cowbois by Charlie Josephine – a Royal Shakespeare Company production at the Royal Court. It has made me laugh and angry, would recommend.
What advice would you give to our Global Majority Producers out there, wanting to do what you do and have done?
- Surround yourself with trusted mentors and peers, including some people who you might not be working with, as it will come in handy when a work situation gets tricky
- Find a way that works for you to keep track of people you meet and have connected – be it a spreadsheet or a specific folder in your inbox
- Talks as well as action on things, where possible keep up with promises, but do know when things are not possible and you need to say no, and clearly communicate to not sting people along.
- Try to switch off from and find life and happiness outside of work. I’ve picked up yoga and re-connected with some of my high school friends who have moved to London, people I had lost touch with for nearly a decade.