Fran’s loss to the arts community in Wales is a substantial one, as her contribution over many years was inspiring and she offered great support to organisations and individuals in a variety of capacities. However, Fran’s engagement with the arts was part of a longer career with its roots in a commitment to justice and equality. I first met Fran through her work with Welsh Women’s Aid and then at Tai Cymru. She wasn’t driven by housing per se, but by a belief that the public funding of housing could be used to transform the lives of people who were in need of support, whether because of domestic violence, disability or other disadvantage. I think it’s fair to say that Fran’s time at Tai Cymru was one of the happiest and most fulfilling parts of her career.
Fran’s rise to prominence in the arts began with the Arts Council of Wales. She joined as Director of Planning at one of the lowest ebbs of ACW’s existence. At a time of huge potential, with funding from the Lottery flowing in and the opportunity for the arts to play a key role in inspiring and defining a post-devolution Wales, the Council was divided within itself and had lost the confidence of the arts community. Fran took on the role of Acting Chief Executive, and became probably the youngest chief executive ever of a major public body in Wales. She began a process of healing both internally and externally which set the organisation on a path to a revitalised future and foreshadowed a period of growth and development in the arts far removed from the acrimony of its gestation.
Her continued work in the arts, as consultant, board member, supporter and friend is well known. She passionately believed in the transformational power of the arts but was more than capable of puncturing an overblown ego when the occasion demanded.
I have an abiding vision of Fran after her debilitating illness first struck, cutting a piratical figure with crutch and eye patch in a well worn leather jacket – bloodied, but unbowed. Her loss will be keenly felt, her contribution remembered and her many friends and admirers saddened, but respectful of the decision which she took thoughtfully, as she had lived.
Sometimes, life brings us people who are not with us for long, but have a huge influence on our work and life. Fran was one of those people for me: a friend, a sister, a colleague and a sophisticated Fairy Godmother to my daughter Mirjana. She inspired me and was a great support to me, my work and my family.
On behalf of National Youth Arts Wales
Fran believed in the creative power and potential of young people. She was a tireless advocate for emerging talent, and for opportunities that would promote and support future generations of creators, makers, performers and producers.
Fran became Chair of National Youth Arts Wales (NYAW) in 2006. She helped to redefine its mission and artistic vision, and was instrumental in formulating ambitious and strategic developments for NYAW that are challenging, inventive and liberated, yet mindful of tradition and training.
Fran took her responsibilities to heart and with no half-measures; she retired from the NYAW Steering Group in March 2013 following seven years of dedicated, active and productive service. She was a great listener and a valuable sounding-board; she was pragmatic and patient (though, on occasion, I know her impatience was well disguised!); she was provocative – quick to challenge with “why?”, “what for?” or “so what?” – playing devil’s advocate to make sure our motives and propositions were sound.
With a generosity of time, energy and spirit that knew no bounds, and with humility and selflessness, Fran made her mark on the arts and culture of Wales – and touched the personal and professional lives of so many along the way.
Without doubt we will miss her but, with echoes of her good sense, quick wit and reminders to keep young people at the heart of everything we do – Fran will be ever-present and smiling.
Thank you, Fran.
There are many artists, dancers, theatre practitioners, writers, makers, movers and shakers and simply friends who have expressed their
gratitude to you these last couple of weeks, all with a deep sense of loss. Here, in no particular order, are some of their words: unique,
brave, witty, intelligent, amazing, remarkable, enthusiastic, wicked sense of humour, loyalty, clarity, integrity, wisdom, generosity, passionate, deep sense of caring for others, willingness to help, going the extra mile, energetic, kindness, courage, support, encouragement, insight, friendship, inspiration, mentor, champion, confidante, dignity, sophisticated, victorious. I know that’s a list
and it’s not even grammatically correct – never-mind lacking in sophistication – please accept my apologies!