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Personal profile

Research interests

Donna Close is a senior research fellow in the school of Media specialising in projects, partnerships and research that investigates the role that creativity and cultural production processes have in cultural, social and economic impact and in amplifying value.  Current UoB projects include: CLEVER, Arts DRIVA and XR Circus.  

In practice, Donna is a creative producer and cultural strategist with 25 years’ experience as an arts and culture leader working across the private and public, commercial and cultural sectors. She has held senior roles in local government, higher education, large cultural organisations, creative SMEs and community and voluntary groups.  A festivals specialist working as an associate director at FEI (Festival Events International) Donna develops strategy, co-creation activity and public engagement programmes for cities, regions and countries working in the UK and Europe. Within a portfolio of more than 20 years working directly in festivals and public cultural programmes, she produced the award winning arts festival White Night that presented immersive and experimental new work and novel experiences for ‘one night only’ and which helped to secure ‘purple flag’ status for Brighton & Hove City Council.  One of the commissions she conceived and produced, ‘West Street Story’ working with artist Martyn Ware, body language expert Dr Harry Witchel and the Noise Abatement Society was designed specifically to tackle anti-social behaviour and was awarded a Sir John Connell award for Innovation. Through the curatorial and artist development of White Night, Donna developed an interest in the role that tech can play in creative content for public spaces and in live experience design. White Night also provided the support and context for first commissions for Circa 69, Driftwood, Shared Space & Light and Chroma-Space, who now all make work internationally. Donna continues to investigate the interface of live performance and collective experiences with tech as a creative producer (working with Driftwood 360) and curator (working with Cine City and Frequency Festival Lincoln) and consultant.

Research Income (UoB)

  • CLEVER – PI, Manager and Research fellow. An international research project into Creative Leadership developing new understanding and pedagogy about how creative skills and practices can drive economic and social impact.  Led to Donna developing a new L5 module and LLL programme in Creative Leadership  (Erasmus+ funded €67,000)
  • Arts DRIVA – PI, Producer  -A research project that forms part of DRIVA arts DRIVA, a £1.2million innovation project designed to provide Creative, Digital & I.T (CDIT) SMEs, creative practitioners and cultural organisations access the full Coast to Capital (C2C) region, unprecedented facilitated access to Gatwick Airport’s big data alongside a mix of creative innovation support including innovation development, R&D grants, expert advice and access to specialist facilities. This is to accelerate innovative Next Gen products, services and experiences for the open market that release value from data through creative tech collaboration or partnership. (Arts DRIVA only ACE funded £266,000)
  • XR Circus – Producer, Co-designer, Co-Investigator. An AHRC funded ‘Next Generation of Immersive Experiences’ project that supported circus artists to develop their ideas working with immersive tech with facilitated access to equipment and expertise and co-curated with industry partners (Freedom Festival, SeaChange Arts, Without Walls).  This project also further developed the LIVE toolkit (developed for Root 1066) seeking to understand more about quality and impact through audience experience. (AHRC funded £73,000)
  • 5G:XR - PI, producer. An AHRC/ Newton Fund funded project with Istanbul to explore what new crultrual experiences 5G might afford in cross-disciplinary practice particularly between the performing arts and games sector.

Knowledge exchange

Outside the University, Donna works as a cultural consultant and creative producer.  Recent work inlcudes:

Income and impact outside UoB

  • Cultural Experience Strategy for the FIFA Wolrd Cup Qatar 2022 with a focus on digital culture and place-making. (Director FEI)
  • 5G Festival - a 5G Create project exploring a 5G powered festival online and in-real-life (Associate, BDBF)
  • Driftwood ROAD (Arts Council £15k).  Development and touring funding for a new immersive work that transported the audience to a road trip across the American South West and included original composition that featured algorithmic loops and beats produced through a new ‘chromarithm’. Described by New Scientist as ‘effortless and intuitive’
  • White Night 2008 – 2011 (£1.2million, ACE, BHCC, EU Interreg 4). Founder, director, producer of White Night project which sought to explore creative innovation, risk-taking and audience participation through an all night arts festival that encouraged artist, audiences and venues to ‘do something different in the middle of the night’. (Head of Arts BHCC)
  • Making it Happen 2006 – 2008 (£2million, DCMS, sponsorship).  Creative director, producer and project manager for 2 year cultural programme in Brighton and Hove that included permanent public art pieces. The project contained two discreet new festivals: Celebrating Age (a radical programme that sought to reframe the conversation about older people) and Say AaH (an international arts and health conference with specially commissioned artist interventions) (Arts and Cultural Projects Manager BHCC)

 Policy & Advisory

  • Shropshire Cultural Strategy (2020)
  • Cumbria Creative and Cultural Strategy (2019)
  • Limerick Festivals and Events Startegy (2020)
  • Ards North Down Borough Festival and Events Strategy (2018)
  • Newry Mourne and Down Festival and Events Strategy (2018)
  • Failte Ireland – Conception and business case for a new Halloween event for Ireland (2017)
  • Belfast City Council – Festival and Events strategy (2017)
  • Nottingham City Council – Executive Producer of bid to be European Capital of Culture 2023 (2017)
  • Our Future City (Brighton) Lead for creative economy strand ‘routes to employment’
  • Preston City Council – Vision, business case and strategy for Lancashire Encounter festival development
  • Chelmsford City Council – Development of a city cultural strategy (2016)
  • Gloucester Culture Trust – Development of a city festival and events strategy (2016)
  • Brighton & Hove Cultural Strategy development (2008 – 2012)

Approach to teaching

Donna designed and teaches on an L5 options module Arts Management for Pioneers.

She has also developed a L5 module and a life long learning sandbox around the principles of Creative Leadership.

Education/Academic qualification

Master, University of Brighton

1 Oct 201631 May 2018

Award Date: 4 Jul 2019

Bachelor, University of Sussex

1 Sep 199031 May 1993

Award Date: 1 Jun 1993

External positions


2 Feb 2020 → …

member, Creative Industries Federation

1 Jan 2019 → …

Director, Festival & Events International

1 Nov 2016 → …

Trustee, Brighton Open Air Theatre

2 Apr 20131 Feb 2019

Head of Arts/ Arts & Cultural Projects Manager, Brighton & Hove City Council

1 Jul 200318 Dec 2014

Fellow, Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA)

30 Jun 2001 → …


  • AI Indexes (General)
  • Cultural Value
  • Innovation
  • Festivals
  • Curation
  • Creativity


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