Interview with Kathy Rose, Head of LSO St Luke’s

Welcome to our new Head of LSO St Luke's, Kathy Rose! Kathy joined us in the autumn last year, bringing a wealth of experience from a career in the film industry and managing operations in the field of education.

On International Womens' Day she talks about what advice she would give to her younger self, balancing her work and family life, how she thinks we should be ensuring women are getting the opportunities in senior positions, and how LSO St Luke's is reaching out to everyone, regardless of age or background.

What are your personal and professional goals and ambitions for the coming year?
My personal goals are to cope better with my commute, which isn’t far, but it’s very busy! My professional goal is to do everything from making sure the toilet rolls are well stocked, implementing the business plan for the venue and all the way through to ensuring everyone has an unforgettable experience.

What attracted you to this role?
It’s just a fantastic venue; I have an amazing remit of delivering education, arts, broadcasting and commercial events to both the public and private sector. It encompasses everything I want to do.

What are the key areas to watch out for in 2019?
Connection…and accessibility. It’s what we do here. It’s lovely that we get a real cross-section of people coming here; from babes in arms through to people with learning disabilities. My eldest daughter actually has Down's syndrome and so creative arts and music are a real way of communication for her and her friends and so in that way, the accessibility is wonderful.

I met a gentleman on the road the other day, he was with someone I knew. He’s lived in the area for the last 75 years and told me he got married in LSO St Luke’s when it was still a functioning church. He told me he’d never been to a concert because he’s always been quite apprehensive to come in. I invited him to one of our lunchtime concerts as they’re absolutely wonderful and he said he’d love to because he hadn’t been back to the building in all those years. For us, that kind of connectivity is what we’re looking for.

What advice would you give to your younger self at the beginning of your career?
I think I’d just do it all again. I’ve always tried new things and I’ve never been particularly career-minded, I’ve just gone with the flow and I think everyone should do that. You don’t need a plan, just take it as it comes. Who would have thought that I would be here now, when I started off being a pop promo producer in the early 80s!

What can the meetings and events industry do better?
Every building should be accessible. I don’t know why this isn’t the case already. Whether it’s because we are set in our ways because we have all these old, historic buildings that just haven’t moved with the times, who knows.

I think the way we champion diversity at LSO St Luke’s is another thing that the industry could definitely take on board; we can always be doing more. We want to hold a wide range of events here at LSO St Luke’s because we offer a safe environment for whatever event. Whoever, however, whatever.

What are the biggest challenges you face?
I’m in a Grade I listed building which has been beautifully converted but needs lot of TLC, so getting my head around that is one thing which I’m quite excited about. Understanding music and the sort of music that’s produced here is another challenge I’m really looking forward to. When I first looked at the job, I came to a lunchtime concert, then I came again when I first got the job and no one knew who I was and then finally in my first week of the job. They were all amazing!

What’s the best thing about working at LSO St Luke’s?
The diversity of our activity. Everyday is different whether it be an architects’ ball or one of our more relaxed concerts with babies crawling all over the place (including the pianist which did actually happen!)

How do we ensure women in the industry are receiving equal opportunities to reach senior positions?
Well I think the LSO are having a really good stab at it which is great; as well as a female Managing Director, six of the eight departments in the LSO are headed up by women. The females that are making waves in this building are also very worthy of note. They are working across the board whether it be on the events management, facilities or the technical side of operations, and they are truly an inspiration.

I’ve worked in very male dominated industries, from advertising to film and music promo content. And it’s shocking that things haven’t changed more in the past few decades, but I strongly believe we’ve just got to keep young women feeling fierce because I think ultimately, we’re all people. I think for young people it is tough and I hope it becomes less tough for women, but I think it’s about being fearless.

Meet the women making waves at LSO St Luke's

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Mairi Gray   Anne Basley   Jennifer Cohen

Mairi Gray, Event Manager

"My advice to my younger self would be to not compare myself to others. There will be school or university classmates of yours who seem to hop up the career ladder with ease and that’s totally fine because life is not a race. Don’t let it make you feel left behind, instead focus on learning as much as you can from those around you as that will give you the confidence you need in the future. You will get there in your own time."


Anne Basley, Facilities Manager

"Be determined in fulfilling your dreams. Don’t be put off easily. We can succeed in changing the balance!"


Jennifer Cohen, Stage Manager

"Work hard, ask questions, get stuck in, teach yourself. Put yourself out there and talk to people about what you're interested in and what you want to get involved in. As soon as I started doing that I was pleasantly surprised how often it would lead to an offer of work or a suggestion of someone to contact."

Wellness in the events industry is a big talking point at the moment, what do you do to switch off?
I have a lot of distraction in my life, I have a very busy family life so I don’t think I ever really switch off, but that’s fine as long as you keep things varied. I do feel that a lot of people are pushing themselves too hard and burning out.

Young people seem to think that they’re invincible. You do have to make time for yourself and for your family and fit it all in. I’m pretty sure I would have done completely different things with my life if I’d really driven myself harder, but I certainly wouldn’t have had as much fun!

Why should event organisers choose LSO St Luke’s for their next event?
Because it’s beautiful! It is absolutely stunning and it really is a hidden treasure, so we want to spread the word. I think it has everything that you need and now that we’ll be able to offer our outdoor space, who would need anything else? We can even hang people from the ceiling so bring in your aerialists!

How does the commercial arm of LSO St Luke’s support the future of music and its rising stars?
We are going out at a good commercial rate and look at ways to make that viable and work because we have that ultimate goal of supporting not just the arts, but our local community. We attract a lot of related events from within the musical sphere but also as a charity ourselves, we attract a lot of charity or CSR led events. We want to position ourselves as the venue for non-profit events and want to be seen as a welcoming home for those in the charity sector.

We champion new, up and coming artists and composers. I came to one of our last concerts where one of the composers on our Jerwood+ scheme was presenting their final piece and it was a mixture of film and dance and it was extraordinary, so I think we give a platform for new people.

Our geographical location is also really important because we are right in the middle of a very old community, and one that was historically thought of as a place only for the few. There was a perception, harking back many years, that certain people didn’t belong here. But actually, because we do open our doors and because we do let the community in, they realise that they do belong and it’s as much a part of them as anything else. The kids that come in here on a Monday and do DJ mixing, realise how accessible it is and how it’s a place where they can learn their craft. Our local community is really important to us.

How is LSO St Luke’s attracting the younger audience and particularly millennials?
I think they’re coming and they’re around. I also think that contemporary music could easily marry up with what we do here, and we’ve already done a lot of collaborations like that here and it’s almost just a case of letting people know that there is the opportunity to do that here. So not only is it a great venue, it’s got a great link to that other way of doing things.

I’m pleased at how many young people are in classical music and how many of them really love it. A lot of the people who work here have a connection with music, be it that they’re students or graduates of music or they just have a real passion for music and the arts. While their role may see them doing something completely different, they still come back to it and keep themselves within the musical spectrum.

Why should event organisers choose a unique venue?
Because they have soul. You walk into the Jerwood Hall at LSO St Luke’s and it feels very organic and special. There is a charm to unique venues that specifically purposed venues simply can’t offer.

Any final thoughts you would like to share about LSO St Luke’s and your new role?
I just hope people discover it like I have, because it’s been really wondrous. When that gentleman who’s lived locally for 75 years comes in for his first concert, I think he’ll rediscover what an incredible place this is, and I think he’ll really enjoy it. It’s extraordinary what happens inside these walls and with such a small team that deliver it; they really are amazing.

Find out more about LSO St Luke's and what goes on inside here.

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