SOAS Event Series 18.05 – Adem Holness

In conversation with Creative Programmer and Cultural Strategist, Adem Holness FRSA

I started an MA in Global Creative and Cultural Industries at SOAS, University of London in October 2021. As part of one of my practical modules, I decided to research careers in the cultural sector and, alongside fellow student Philipp Schütz, I put on a series of events inviting researchers and practitioners to talk about their careers.

The second of these events was with Adem Holness. As part of my research into cultural sector careers, I had attended a job information session in the Arts Council England music department where he works part time. I felt inspired by the experiences he shared and when I googled him later, he had a fascinating and prestigious portfolio career as a ‘Creative Programmer’ and ‘Cultural Strategist’ – roles that I didn’t even know I could aspire to. I wanted to find out how he had built his career.

Here’s What I Learned

I learned that, as a young person, he heavily benefitted from The Roundhouse’s programme of professional development opportunities for young creatives. This also explained his approach to cultural strategy which was focused on nurturing local grassroots talent rather than supplanting artists and creative programmes from elsewhere. His career was a balance of individual initiative, good administrative skills, community awareness, and collaboration. He independently identified gaps in the cultural sector, devised creative projects with an understand of public funding, he built strong community networks around these projects, and went out of his way to cultivate positive relationships with his colleagues.

I felt very encouraged by Adem’s self-starter attitude and ambition. Like my own career, it was comforting that his had also not been completely linear. He also demystified his roles by bringing a lot of humility and honesty to our conversation; he admitted nervousness around large-scale events, described his weaknesses as an organiser, and being turned down for high-profile jobs.

Event Photography by Philipp Schütz

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