Dianne Greig is Senior Partner at Culture Sparks who specialises in research, marketing,communications, digital & social media for the arts & cultural sector. She shares her first 5 jobs with us.

Nomads, Nuggets and Necrophilia*
The career path I’m travelling along is one not so much fuelled by choices made at school, as can often be the case, but moulded by everyday life and positive influencers. The five jobs I have chosen to share include a couple of part-time escapades that set me on the road to independence and others that have grounded me in the arts and cultural sector. Before going on to my jobs however, I thought a quick background preamble might be useful.

Having had a somewhat nomadic mother meant I moved between three primary schools and two secondary schools, with the longest stay at any one time being around two years. Erratic schooling (and fifteen house moves) is not to be recommended but I see it now as a resilience builder – a new playground, classroom, gym hall or dinner table can be a daunting space but after a couple of changes I became astute at sussing out the friendly zones. I was also drawn to the few teachers who were generous with their time, obviously enjoyed imparting their knowledge but importantly whose radar went wider than the loudest kids. One such early influencer for me was my first year art teacher (Dugald MacInnes) who included the phrase on my report card “Dianne is a very talented young artist”. Although Mr MacInnes’ ‘confidence nugget’ never laid the foundation for what I thought would be a pre- destined design career, his few words of quiet recognition still resonate. At an everyday level they attach an assurance to the decisions I make relating to visual communications but also remind me that there are other avenues still out there for me to explore. Now to the jobs…

One latke or two?
When I mention to some people that I worked in a Jewish ‘chippy’ it normally raises a questioning smile. It was essentially the base where the bagels, potato latkes et al were made to be transported to a shop a few miles away – chips were sold as a small side line. Probably breaking a few employment laws even in the mid-eighties, my entrepreneurial boss Seymour paid me £1 an hour when I was fourteen for up to twenty hours a week. I didn’t actually mind sharing third and fourth year with my chippy work (evenings and weekends only of course! ) because, as well as the bonus of one of the bagel-bakers being easy on the eye, I was able to afford new vinyl singles every week with my riches. As you might guess a school move ended my ‘love affair’ with the Jewish chippy.

Hey Presto…
By the time I was eighteen I had my own flat and rent to pay so a part-time supermarket deli job I’d had for a couple of years morphed into a full-time position. This is when art school got kicked to the touchline. It was also the place I encountered a tough female boss with an incredible work ethic but whose comments, usually personal, could cut like the proverbial knife. Fortunately the job brought two positives – one, I quickly acquired the skills/thick skin needed to work with a challenging boss and secondly, I sliced a chunk of finger off in the meat cutting machine prompting a hasty exit and new horizons.

Exploitation or Opportunity?
Always the knowledge junkie, over recent years my study/professional development has included areas such as business admin, marketing, management development, research, mentoring and social sciences (economics, sociology, psychology, history & politics) but it was through the much maligned Youth Training Scheme (YTS) that I entered the arts. I was a recruit of a renamed and repackaged programme in the early nineties and found myself as a marketing trainee at Scottish Ballet. Criticised as being exploitative, as pay was in line with unemployment benefit, I am still appreciative of this experiential learning opportunity. This was back in the heyday of the (jammed) fax machine, before email and when telephones rang all day. Between rehearsals the dancers could be found hanging out in the cigarette smoke- filled green room or perched expectantly on the desks in our office when the reviews came out. We kept mailing leaflets in a dark dungeon called George’s back passage (the thought of the place still gives me shivers). I have great memories from the Ballet – it was the first place I experienced being part of a close team where humour was the order of the day.

Life with an Idiot…
Marketing hundreds of traditional and contemporary opera, dance, drama, musical theatre and children’s productions and projects in my various roles at Scottish Opera and the Theatre Royal brought many new experiences (not to mention box office targets in the millions). I feel privileged to have been part of the company’s contemporary take on Wagner’s Ring Cycle – an epic rare release that drew countless commendations and boos from the die- hard traditionalists. There were other extremes – Alfred Schnittke’s opera Life with an Idiot shocked (check out the synopsis sometime – beware includes necrophilia*) and Inbal Pinto’s Boobies entranced. Jane Horrock’s peeing on stage in Mark Rylance’s Hare Krishna-esque Macbeth caused a furore and Bradley Walsh was peeved when he didn’t get a gold star on his dressing room door when the theatre hosted the BBC’s National Lottery (allegedly). From world premieres to community concerts, every performance came in for close scrutiny from the press, audiences, funders and investors, as did its accompanying promotional material. There’s no denying that marketing the work of a national company, in tandem with a large receiving venue, makes for pressurised days but I still miss having a box office terminal at the edge of my desk – watching ticket sales rise in response to marketing decisions. I also made lifelong connections with some unique individuals. We got through merger talks and the threat of part-time status. An eclectic twelve years – I loved it.

@CultureSparks #science #art
For the last seven years at Culture Sparks I’ve been interrogating all types of sector data and intelligence to create development and capacity building strategies with members and clients. My consultancies can range from short-term box office sales analyses with a venue through to more involved projects that integrate the many aspects of strategic audience development. Digital technologies and social media are a strong focus – here I combine science with art. Critiquing online conversations, measuring their impact, producing benchmark metrics and influencing strategies means finding creative ways to visualise often complex data that may on the surface appear meaningless. And there’s no standing still at Culture Sparks. A dynamic arts and cultural sector needs tuned into daily for the latest programming, dialogue, trends and opportunities.

One of our latest projects – VeloCityArt – combines all of these elements and more. This new public art initiative is bringing together local communities, artists and planners in Glasgow to create recommendations for a series of cultural programmes and interventions to take place in the city in the run up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Our role is to engage the public in conversations to help shape the long-term transformation of communities alongside project partners and we’ve designed new ways to get people involved in the discussions. You’re very welcome to contribute through our online space – http://viewfromhereglasgow.co.uk.

I’m off to look out my old sketch book…

Culture Sparks is the intelligence and innovation partnership for the cultural sector.


We’ve asked professionals in creative industries what jobs they have had in the past to get their foot through the door (or at least pay the rent). For more in the “My First 5 Jobs” series look here.