Notes on Cultural Peeps Podcast Episode 13: Judith Carlton
Hello and welcome to Episode 13 of the Cultural Peeps Podcast. I’m in Southwark Park in Central London, which is where I recorded today’s’ conversation with Judith Carlton, the Director of Southwark Park Galleries.
Southwark Park Galleries (formerly known as CGP London) was founded in 1984 by The Bermondsy Artist Group. Since it’s conception, they have commissioned and presented over 160 free exhibitions by emerging and established British and international artists.
Their mission is to foster artistic career development by providing opportunities for artists and curators to develop their ideas and practice. This is done through the supportive and professional presentation of their work in a unique park setting, integrated within a meaningful community and learning programme.
The recording took place in the Lake Galley, one of 2 spaces that make up Southwark Park Galleries. As well as housing a large exhibition space, Lake Gallery also contains an Artist’s bothy which is a permanent outdoor art workshop and residency site and also a fantastic garden full of flowers, plants and home-grown herbs.
After we recorded the conversation which forms the basis for today’s episode, Jude then took me across to the second exhibition space – Dilston Gallery (formerly known as Dilston Grove) which is a repurposed church, originally built in 1911 and which is actually the first poured concrete building in England. It’s a fascinating exhibition space and I’ll really recommend checking that out if you get the opportunity.
The church closed in the early 1950s and was used by a group of students from The Royal College of Art as artist studios in the 1970s. With support from Arts Council England, London Borough of Southwark and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Southwark Park Galleries transformed the derelict church into a spectacular art gallery which is well suited to ambitious, large-scale installations and performances. The building re-opened in May 1999 with the new name of Dilston Grove.
We start the conversation hearing about Jude’s current role as Director of Southwark Park Galleries and what that means working across multiple sites and with different Artists and Communities in a venue situated at the centre of the London Art scene.
We then talk about Jude’s very early aspirations of becoming a Dentist, and how after deciding that this wouldn’t be a viable career route for her, she was careful to pick subjects that would give her options when making career decisions later on.
Whilst completing her first degree at Edinburgh University, Jude supported her studies by working in a hotel, but also simultaneously travelled back to Newcastle at weekends to undertake voluntary work, first at Tyne and Wear Archives and Museum and then later at the Hatton Gallery.
In 2004 she enrolled on the Postgraduate course in Art Museum and Gallery Studies at Newcastle University. Towards the end of that year, she secured a Part-Time role with the Hatton Gallery and talks fondly about the family-like atmosphere that she experienced whilst working with the team there.
Around this time, Jude also studied with the Open University to develop her knowledge and understanding of Art History.
This part of the conversation introduces 2 central and closely linked themes. The first relates to ‘permission’. So, Jude recalls initially worrying that she wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to fulfil her ambition of become a Curator because she didn’t have an Undergraduate or Postgraduate Art-History qualification, and as a result, concluded that she would probably ultimately end up working either in Archives or as a Registrar.
The second theme that emerges here is about ‘confidence’ or something that many people refer to as ‘imposter syndrome’. This is hugely common in all sectors, not just in the arts and something that took a while for Jude to resolve – that resolution seems seems to conicde with her finding the right venue and team of colleagues which really helped build her confidence and believe in her own abilities and expanding skill set.
Jude then took a big step and decided to relocate to London, securing a role at the Serpentine Gallery as Events Organizer.
Through that role, Jude talks about developing and refining what she describes as ‘hosting skills’, and how even if the world around her is collapsing, she is able to remain professional and make people feel comfortable – and how this often helps projects come together and inspires confidence in those around her.
At this point we talk about how London can be an expensive and intimidating city for many early career professionals and how at that point, she was not sure if she wanted to stay in London.
Jude then went on to work as a Studio Manager for a colleague, which allowed her to get back to working with the artists. She used that role to slow the pace of things down and think about both what she wanted to do and who she wanted to work with.
She then took up a role at Cubitt as the Gallery Manager, describing working there as like returning home, and feeling a huge sense of relief. She describes that feeling as being similar to her experience at the Hatton, emphasising that that size, scale and ethos of an institution is often critical to happiness for many of us.
Although Happy at Cubbit, Jude reached something of a glass ceiling. Unable to broaden her role or reach a higher pay band, she started to look for other opportunities that would allow her to develop her skill set and set herself new ambitions.
After initially deciding that she wanted to relocate to Berlin, she applied for a role at Matt’s Gallery in London, where she went on to work closely with the Galleries founder and Director, Robin Kalssnick.
Jude was initially the Gallery Manager and then went on to become the Assistant Director at Matt’s and recalls exciting early experiences of working at the Venice Biennale with Mike Nelson and the joy of helping develop and deliver a hugely diverse programme with the Gallery over a 4 year period.
Towards the end of our conversation, we talk quite a lot about issues around volunteering and the use of free-labour and what that means for people trying to break into the sector. Here, Jude outlines her strategy for supporting early career professionals which encourages the use paid schemes wherever possible.
We end with some brilliant advice from Judith, which is to think laterally about networking and relationship building. She describes a network as everyone you’ve known, worked with or come into contact with, and outlines her technique of sitting down and writing out lists which can help to work out who you really want to work with, where you want to concentrate your efforts with and who you can ask for advice when you need it.
For further information about Judith, please visit:
Judith on LinkedIn:
Art Review Announcement of Judith’s Appointment at Southwark Galleries (formally CPG Galleries):
Links to Podcast content:
Tyne and Wear Museums:
Newcastle University (Art Museum & Gallery Studies):
Southwark Park Galleries:
Switch House (Tate Modern):
London Fashion Week:
Sam Taylor-Johnson (Sam Taylor-Wood):
White Cube (Gallery):
The Venice Biennale:
303 Gallery New York:
Stanley Picker internship programme for a student curator at Matts Gallery: https://www.stanleypickertrust.org/grants-scholarships-and-bursaries/
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art:
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