ALISON CLARK-JENKINS began her career as an English teacher after graduating with first-class honours in English literature. After moving on from teaching, Alison took on managing a series of youth and community arts projects in Liverpool.
Returning home to the North East in 2001, she has had a series of jobs in the arts, including cultural strategy developments and a creative director role at Creative Partnerships Tees Valley.
Since 2006, she has been working under the role of the regional director of arts and development for the Arts Council. Alison works to develop visual, combined and performing arts in the region and also has involvement in a range of national projects for the council.
Where do you live?
In Yarm, Teesside. It’s a great mix of nice shops and restaurants, but with quite a village-y feel.
How long have you lived there?
I’ve lived there for two years, but I’m considering a move a bit further north at the moment.
What’s your dream home?
I love the elegance of the 1930s, and the kind of house featured in the films Gosford Park and Atonement would be wonderful to live in – as long as I could have 21st Century appliances in there too.
How do you get around?
As my office is in Newcastle and I often attend events in the evening, I have quite a long commute and my car is pretty much essential. Some of my work is in London too, so I’m very familiar with the East Coast Main Line.
What is your favourite part of the North East?
I’m a rower; I love the region’s rivers, and one of my favourite events is Hexham Regatta. It’s a nice and relatively gentle section of the Tyne, and such a picturesque place.
What is the best holiday you’ve ever had?
I went on a pilates and yoga holiday to Fuerteventura in June and it was a perfect mix of sun, sea, exercise and even a bit of meditation.
What’s the favourite thing in your home?
I have an armchair and lamp from Heals that my friends and family bought for my 40th birthday.
If you could have one luxury what would it be?
I’d like to have an extra day in the week please! Failing that, I’d like to have the Alex Charrington painting that I had on loan in our offices a couple of years ago.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working with colleagues across the Arts Council and with partners in the region to plan for how we can get great art for everyone with potentially significantly less public money.
Who or what is the love of your life?
My son. He’s a rowing coach for Durham University, and also training for national events himself. I also have a deep affection, some might say addiction, for my Blackberry smartphone.
Where is your favourite place in the North East?
Even though I do it twice a day, crossing the Tyne Bridge with the Quayside below and the High Level and Millennium Bridges either side of me always feels very special.
What’s your favourite shop?
It has to be Fenwick’s! I can lose many hours in there, on just about every floor.
What is your favourite restaurant?
Six at Baltic in Gateshead. The food is fabulous, the service is spot-on, and the views must be some of the best in the country.
The Black Bull in Yarm can be a bit of a focal point at weekends, and has a great beer garden, which is great in the summer, although it can get pretty crowded and noisy and I might have to admit that I’m getting too old for it!
In the autumn I love comfort food like rich risottos and chunky soups. I’m vegetarian, and there’s so much more choice, at a much higher standard, than there was even five years ago.
Are you any good at cooking? Do you spend much time in your kitchen?
I have loads of recipe books, but I think of the recipe as a starting point. I relish making Christmas dinner for lots of people. I don’t really understand how it gets some people so stressed. It’s a cliché, but it’s all about timing!
What’s the last play or film you saw?
I saw Northern Stage’s production of Apples when it premiered in Middlesbrough earlier this year. It’s since toured around the country, was a huge hit in Edinburgh and is now back for a run at northern stage. It’s an adaptation of Richard Millward’s novel about the lives of a group of teenagers in Middlesbrough. It’s powerful and dark and funny. If you haven’t seen it, go buy a ticket right now.
What book are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just reread Less Than Zero, Brett Easton Ellis’s debut novel, in preparation for his new novel which picks up the lives of the characters 20 years on. It’s about the empty, drug-fuelled lives of a group of wealthy but aimless American teenagers.
What are you listening to on your iPod/CD player?
I’m training for the Great North Run, so my running playlist is most-listened-to right now. MGMT and Florence and the Machine are both heavily featured on it.
What’s your favourite TV programme?
Mad Men, without question. The writing, acting, clothes, the period detail all come together perfectly. And, of course, there’s Don Draper.
What are you proudest of?
A few weeks ago, a group of artists such as Lee Hall, the writer of Billy Elliot and Pitmen Painters, spoke out in the national and local Press about the power of art in the North East. I was reminded then how proud and lucky I am to do the job that I do.
Do you have any wisdom to share?
Trust your instincts – they’re not arbitrary or random, but come out of your knowledge and experience.
When and where were you happiest?
I’m always very happy to get home after a hectic week and sink into the armchair with a glass of cold prosecco.