The Wick - Courtesy of Margaret Casely-Hayford The Wick - Courtesy of Margaret Casely-Hayford
Monday Muse

Interview Chair of Shakespeare’s Globe Margaret Casely-Hayford 

Margaret Casely-Hayford
Dan Kennedy
20 February 2023
Margaret Casely-Hayford
Dan Kennedy
20 February 2023
It’s been a turbulent time for the arts, with new and extremely difficult challenges ahead. Fortunately, one of London’s most iconic institutions, Shakespeare’s Globe, has had the help of this week’s Monday Muse, Margaret Casely-Hayford, to steer it in the right direction.

Casely-Hayford was appointed chair in January 2018, the same year in which she became the first female chancellor of Coventry University, leading its work on corporate responsibility, social mobility and community engagement. Since 2016, she has also been an elected member of the board of the Co-op Group.

These are just the latest roles in an extraordinary career, which includes 20 years with City law firm Dentons – where Casely-Hayford was made partner and jointly led an award-winning team in planning and development work – and nine years as director of legal services and company secretary for the John Lewis Partnership.

Her portfolio also includes supporting education, young entrepreneurs and helping to establish diversity on boards. In 2018, Casely-Hayford was rightly awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Honours list for services to charity and for promoting diversity.

THE WICK:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse?

Margaret Casely-Hayford :   Every morning I check in with my daughter Persephone, who’s a real live wire and her phone calls fire me with enthusiasm for the day or week ahead. She’s event manager at the Southbank Centre and her work ranges from the London Philharmonic Orchestra to curation of the Meltdown Festival – last year she was looking after Grace Jones, who was festival curator, and this year it’s being curated by Christine and the Queens, which should be wildly exciting. She’s just finished the annual Imagine Children’s Festival, which was the cutest thing ever with so many small children enjoying the fun. She’s also delivering on an incredible classic musical programme focussing on a modern delivery. I love her energy and am so proud of her!

TW:   You’ve been a lawyer, businesswoman and chair of Shakespeare’s Globe. What are your tips to manage it all?

MCH:   It boils down to having a collaborative, co-operative team. I’ve been fortunate with wonderful personal assistants to manage my diary and plan, giving me space to deal with the substantive work; and my husband Giles is very much my partner with caring and sharing. You can enjoy more together if one person doesn’t have all the chores. My board and management colleagues are gems – with diverse talents, complementary skills and wonderfully willing collaborative spirits.

TW:   Post-covid theatres really struggled with new audiences. What do you think the future of theatre and performance art looks like in a digital world?

MCH:   During lockdown, the Globe wanted to keep links with our audiences, even those who might not often get a chance to see performances, so we made Globe Player available, free of charge. We were delighted when viewings went up from 8,000 to hundreds of thousands within days. Globe Player is still available on subscription and we hope to make more digital productions, so we can continue to reach a wider audience. Before the pandemic, one-third of the 1 million annual visitors that came through our gates were from abroad. Tourists from abroad still aren’t up to previous levels but are gradually returning.

After two lockdown years, home audiences have hankered after live performances and spaces in which we can all get together. Shakespeare’s Globe has not only focussed on popular titles like Romeo & Juliet and a sold-out Much Ado About Nothing, but has also successfully introduced new writing like Hakawatis (a retelling of the Arabian Nights), and we received great audiences during our winter season. The new summer season bookings are already looking good, as we again have popular titles – like a short 90-minute production of The Tempest, responding to the school curriculum, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a much darker Titus Andronicus, starting in April. These are all directed by exciting young directors.

TW:   You recently worked on the opening of The Gallery of Living History. What is the ambition for this project?

MCH:   The Gallery of Living History is the brainchild of actor, director, and producer Andy Serkis and producer Jonathan Cavendish, in collaboration with me in my capacity as Coventry University’s chancellor. Andy and Jonathan’s Imaginarium Studios and Imaginarium Productions collaborate with the University’s immersive studios to create storytelling opportunities that tell a rounded history from the perspective of unsung, often marginalised heroes, who made the country’s success behind those more regularly celebrated, whose reputations benefited from this.

It explores and debates the notion of history, memory, and culture through research and content creation. It has its roots within the national conversation about history and the relationship between past and present, thrown up by events like the death of George Floyd and the contested statutory debates. It develops initiatives through the creation of different media, exhibitions, across audio, video, augmented and virtual reality, and live performance.

“After two lockdown years, home audiences have hankered after live performances and spaces in which we can all get together.”

TW:   Why do you think it is important for art and business to have a relationship?

MCH:   I’m lucky to be both on the Co-op board, an enterprise that combines purpose and social responsibility with commerciality, and on the board of an arts and culture icon like Shakespeare’s Globe. The former can get benefits from arts and performance partnerships that support the health and wellbeing of colleagues and the community, like Co-op Live. As the Globe is an independent theatre that ordinarily gets no government support, we rely on our own trading and support from patrons, friends and corporate sponsorship, like the wonderful partnership with Deutsche Bank that’s allowed 25,000 school children a year to access performances, free of charge.

TW:   What is your proudest achievement to date?

MCH:   I’m really proud of having been the chair of the development charity ActionAid UK – it not only works to try to eradicate poverty with some of the poorest people in the world but does so by helping create and support education opportunities and establishing rights for women and girls who would otherwise not be educated, could be sold into early marriage, or unable to escape domestic violence or otherwise operate as valued community members. When women and girls in such situations become educated and resilient, it strengthens the whole community.

TW:   Where are your favourite culturally curious spots in London?

MCH:   Obviously, I love Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and its little Jacobean sister, the beautiful candlelit SWP [the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse]. It’s thrilling to enter the portals to Sam Wanamaker’s dream, the Elizabethan replica theatre that Shakespeare himself would recognise, standing on almost the same spot at which his theatre would have stood. The building is unique and magical.

I’m so excited about the new V&A East that’s being developed under the auspices of my talented brother Gus. The V&A is building a new collections storehouse on the old Olympic Park in East London to house 250,000 objects, telling the story of global creativity across 5,000 years. These range from vast pieces of architecture and theatre backdrops that are the size of buses to tiny thumb-sized ceramics and thimbles that tell the overlooked story of domesticity worldwide. And alongside this vast storehouse, they’re building a new museum to celebrate the very best makers and their work. It’s ambitious and exciting.

TW:   What do you collect?

MCH:   My background makes me very interested in West African art, and I have a few lovely pieces, for example, a woven Ghanaian Kente cloth, Central African Kuba cloth, and dyed Gara cloth from Sierra Leone. We also have some fabulous carvings and a recent Valentine’s present from my husband was an Asafo flag by the documented flag maker from mid-last century, Kwamina Amoaku.

TW:   What is your favourite go-to fashion brand or item?

MCH:   My signature item for years has been the black polo neck sweater. I have many, from different brands, but my favourite is the Zara with brass sleeve buttons, which I pair with a black trouser suit from the Casely-Hayford range, and a little box jacket from Chanel or blazer from Ralph Lauren. I also love a simple white shirt and pair of black trousers from COS or Armani.

TW:   What’s the book you would pass on?

MCH:   My grandfather J.E. Casely-Hayford’s book Ethiopia Unbound was published in 1911. It was one of the first published novels in English by an African, and said to be the earliest pan-African fiction. Set in West Africa and England, it takes the form of a discussion between an African and his English friend, who he’d met at Cambridge then again later in West Africa in a situation that makes them explore their different statuses in life. J.E. emphasises the importance to Africans of respecting their own culture. In these days of culture wars, it’s surprisingly pertinent 100 years later.

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