Seema Manchanda

Chair, Deptford X Festival

Please tell us about yourself

I am currently Chair of Deptford X Festival and was also Managing Director of The Showroom from 2020-2023.

Prior to that I was Assistant Director of Planning and Environment at the London Borough of Wandsworth where I worked with my team on delivering schemes such as Battersea Power Station, the new US Embassy and the Ram Brewery site in Wandsworth.  I have previously led planning services in Islington and Newham.

I  am the Chair of Action for Race Equality, a national charity supporting young people and addressing racism.

What was your journey into the arts?

In 2014 I left local government as I was also caring for my father. I started a Diploma in Fine Art at the Art Academy, London and also ran a planning consultancy - doing both things part time and also having more time for my care responsibilities. 

At art school I developed a love of printmaking and painting. When I graduated in 2019 I decided to move into arts management and got the job at The Showroom.  When I started in April 2020 the world had gone into lockdown!! It was six months before I actually met the team and saw the gallery I was managing properly.  It was a very surreal way to start a new career in a new sector and was a bit of a baptism by fire as I was probably rewriting the business plan every two weeks to cope with the constantly changing circumstances!

What inspires you?

People who find new solutions to problems always inspire me.

It seems so necessary now if we are going to address exclusion, Climate Change, the care crisis and other problems.

Why should people join CVAN London?

CVAN can be a really wonderful collaborative network for people working in London’s Visual Arts organisations. 

I found it incredibly supportive during the pandemic because it was another source of learning & support during a period of strange, isolated working and now I find it even better because we can actually meet in person

What are your goals for CVAN London?

To be a network that delivers a more diverse workforce in the visual arts.

What is one piece of advice or learning that resonates with you right now as part of the AREVA writers room?

I  am really enjoying the exercises where we try to write formal documents as poetry or stories as this really draws out the issues in new and surprising ways.

A favourite art moment in London:

The Royal Academy took a picture of my mum and I looking at artworks in the Summer Exhibition in 2016 (I think)  and they used that photo in their newsletters periodically for about two years after that - I always smiled everytime it popped up.

A woman in glasses and a black dress leaning against a wall