Interview with QMU graduate: Adrian DeBattista, MA Arts Festival & Cultural Management
Adrian DeBattista is from Zejtun in Malta. He graduated with an MA Arts Festival & Cultural Management from QMU in 2015.
He decided he wanted to change his career direction after gaining an undergraduate degree in economics and having spent five years working at the finance ministry in Malta. In particular, he was keen to steer his career towards the cultural sector at policy level and felt that QMU’s MA Arts Festival & Cultural Management would offer him the academic knowledge, skills and confidence to get him where he wanted to go.
Adrian has engaged in a number of music projects as a performer and has worked as a volunteer organising music events over the years.
Why did you choose to study at QMU?
“My academic background as an undergraduate in economics and work experience were not enough to give me the confidence to try and step into this relatively new field at a professional level. It was then that found out about the components and structure of this course and I saw it as a potential stepping stone towards a 180 degree career turn.
“The course enabled me to analyse aspects of Maltese national cultural policy and the strategies of certain festivals and arts organisations in Malta. This allowed me to help fill the significant gap of Malta-based arts management research.
“I was also able to gain knowledge about UK and wider international cultural contexts with a focus on my passion – live music!”
“I was lucky to be able to visit the QMU campus before I enrolled on the course and was impressed with QMU’s compact campus and welcoming atmosphere. I also had the opportunity to meet the course leader face-to-face and discuss the practicalities of the course and what it entails. After meeting the course leader, I felt more convinced that it was the right choice for me.”
Why did you choose to live and study Edinburgh?
“Edinburgh fascinates me with its rich history, culture, arts and architecture, not to mention the beautiful natural landscape that I could never get enough of. Living in Edinburgh is such a pleasant and calming experience whilst still brimming with activity. I believe that such a combination of having the best of both worlds in a European capital city is quite a rarity. I always found something to explore at every turn when not busy exploring library shelves at QMU.”
What did you enjoy most about studying at QMU?
“There was considerable individual attention given to the students and it felt like a safe space for debate and critical thinking. The course leader was continuously helpful and encouraged us to challenge him during class, making the process more participatory.
"The knowledge and experience of the lecturers at QMU was astounding. They were always available for individual assistance online and when possible through face to face meetings."
“The guest lecturers had a wealth of experience in the field of arts, festival and cultural management to share. A culture of knowledge sharing was also present amongst all students, which strengthened the social bond between us.
“The community environment of the QMU campus and 24 hour library facilities helped many of the students on my course succeed.”
What are your top tips for future QMU students?
“You get from the course what you put in, and possibly more. Whilst the teaching staff are helpful and resourceful, you need to take initiative and show genuine interest in the subject matter by researching, putting forward questions and being open to suggestions.
“Also knowledge sharing and exchange is key to progressing and gaining the most out of the course. Through conversations with my peers I improved the way I look at my work and gained more confidence when networking, which is vital in the cultural sector. This was possible due to the conditions created by the professional staff and environment at QMU which aligned with my enthusiasm to keep on learning.”
What did you like best about living in Edinburgh?
“It was the landscape, architecture and the diversity of daily cultural events. These have all contributed in making my experience unpredictable and exciting while sometimes serving as tools for stress reduction whether it was drafting my dissertation on the top of Calton Hill to having group project meetings at the National Museum Cafe. Looking back I would say that the physical space helped my mindfulness possibly more than I am aware of.
“I lived on Easter Road in Leith, which is 7-10 minutes walk away from Princes Street, right at the very centre of Edinburgh, so it’s close to Edinburgh’s main landmarks, bars, amenities and transport to QMU.”
“Calton Hill is my favourite spot in Edinburgh where I could relax, think, read and write while appreciating the panoramic views of the city. I also enjoyed attending the Fruitmarket Gallery whenever I was in the mood for some contemporary art or browsing through some art or philosophy books. In fact I was glad when I had to visit the gallery in relation to a group assignment which involved a tour and interview on the ‘behind the scenes’ work of the gallery. The Meadows and Princes’ Street Gardens were other frequent reading and meeting spots of mine.”
Tell us about your graduate career…
“I started working as a research associate at Arts Council Malta just a week after I had finished my final project at QMU. It’s clear to me that the course was a determining factor in the success of my application. My role involves developing and managing the Council’s research programme through qualitative and quantitative research, whilst gathering statistics and data mining, analysing cultural practices and monitoring trends effecting or resulting from cultural participation, production and consumption.
“I’m also responsible for ensuring quality control of research by setting up appropriate monitoring and evaluation systems. The aim is to produce a knowledge base from which effective policy recommendations can be made, whilst aiding cultural operators through more informed decision-making.
“Soon after I started in the role, I was involved in writing the Council’s 5-year strategy with regard to research for 2016-2020, which was launched in December 2015. I’ve also been working on the formulation of data collection methods for internal evaluation of national cultural organisations, which came into effect in 2017.
“Some of the projects I’m currently involved in or managing, include a national cultural participation survey, the impact evaluation of two funding programmes managed by the Council and an audience segmentation report for cultural organisations. In the process, I’m working closely with the research team at the Valletta 2018 Foundation, which oversees the Valletta 2018 European Capital of Culture programme.”
How do you think your QMU degree has helped kick start your career?
“My QMU degree helped me improve and optimise my research skills, especially in terms of qualitative research, which wasn’t really covered in my undergraduate degree. This proved to be useful in terms of documentary analysis in relation to cultural policy texts, which are a key part of my work.
“It has also equipped me with valuable skills for critical thinking and writing that have given me the confidence to debate and question underlying discourses that exist in my daily work.
“The work placement I had as part of my course also helped me widen my practical skills. I worked with arts organisation, Lapidus Scotland, to help manage their social media and write funding applications. I also helped develop the organisation’s new website, which is used by authors, poets and educators to facilitate creative writing therapy sessions.
“My experience with Lapidus Scotland challenged some of my preconceived ideas about how relationships with the public and local authorities can be managed and has helped me in my current position with the Council. I see these aspects as having a lasting influence on the way I reflect on my self and the environment around me as I progress in my career.”
MA Arts, Festival & Cultural Management
Notes to Editor
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