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Interview with the portfolio manager at the Arts Council of Wales

Lisa Matthews is the portfolio manager on the enterprise and regeneration team at the Arts Council of Wales. She talks to Georgia Snow about her role.

What does your role entail?
‘Portfolio manager’ is one of those vague job titles that means you can do a bit of everything. I am based within the enterprise and regeneration team at the Arts Council of Wales. A lot of the areas I work in are more about how we can amplify what the arts does, and support the arts sector in Wales. Often it’s about taking the arts sector outside Wales. We work with partners, including the BBC, and come up with initiatives in areas in which we are both interested.

Some of your role covers digital innovation. How important is that?
Hugely important. The Digital Innovation Fund [which provides funding for digital projects within the arts] is another example of us working in partnership, this time with Nesta. We did a pilot last year and we really looked into what worked and what didn’t, so this year we are building on those lessons. Organisations sometimes need a bit more time to really think what the problem is before they jump to a conclusion of what the best approach might be. What we are starting to talk less about is digital for the sake of digital; it’s really more about how we can feel using digital as a problem-solver. Instead of saying, ‘What’s your digital idea?’, we say, ‘What’s your problem?’ Sometimes digital isn’t the best way to solve it. So it’s an approach, but not just doing it for the sake of doing it.

How long have you worked in the arts?
I’ve been here three and a half years, so I came in after the last restructure. Before that I was director of an organisation called Welsh Music Foundation, which was a development agency for the music sector in Wales. Being at the forefront of digital, there was a lot of change in the music industry, and it was great coming to ACW to be able to do more of that work directly, not just in music but in other art forms.

Do you enjoy covering all art forms?
Music has always been my background but I have always worked at that juncture between creative people and audiences. Interesting things happen when there is cross-pollination between art forms or people with different interests. A lot of the work I do is around partnerships, it’s all about recognising where there is a mutual interest or inquisitiveness. With the finance and the funding situation being what it is, that’s often a more sustainable way of working.

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