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10 Questions With Charlie Macfarlane

We recently welcomed a new team member to our little office! Introducing Charlie Macfarlane, our brand-new Development & Operations Officer. Read on to find out how Charlie came to be with us and hear about her love for the arts, her cat and which musician she would take out for coffee...



1. How have you ended up at the New Zealand String Quartet?


Through no unique route. I was actively looking for my next opportunity at the same time the job vacancy was listed. I noted an even mix of things I knew I could do and things I wanted to do – so I applied!


2. You also work with Environmental Film Festival Australia (EFFA). Tell us about your role there.


I am one of two Co-Directors. Like in any not-for-profit arts/social justice organisation there is a need to wear many hats. Our team consists of around twenty individuals – a mix of part-time contractors and volunteers, split into eight areas. Alongside my Co-Director we manage the organisation as well as oversee projects. I know that working with international filmmakers and artists to curate programmes that advocate for climate change solutions sounds glamorous (and I do feel like I am making an impact), but majority of my time is taken up with emails, spreadsheets, stakeholder management, seeking funding opportunities, reporting, and ensuring all our financial and legal requirements are met.


3. So, you love film?


I do – as much as I love all artforms. Recently I’ve accepted that I prefer watching and analysing films over making them. The industry can be brutal, and I prefer to have a solid routine. Although sometimes special opportunities come up… so there may be a few productions in me yet.


4. Do you play an instrument?


Kind of. Definitely not professionally. I taught myself piano by ear (I can feel the cringing from professionals now), which I translated over to any other instruments I could access. It was always a hobby that I preferred to do alone. There is also a limit to what you can teach yourself. Growing up I dreamt about being a performer, but circumstances lead me down another path. That journey proved that I have many other skills and I can still be involved in music without playing in front of people. It has been a few years since I have played anything, but I feel like my life is stabilising now and I will soon have extra resources to spare which I may invest into revisiting that area of interest and becoming a mature-age student. One must keep their mind active!


5. What’s drawn you to work with chamber music?


I adore classical/instrumental music but have never worked in that space. I have worked in the music industry with contemporary genres and found that wasn’t really for me. I am excited for something different.


6. What does a typical day look like for a Development & Operations Officer?


In my few short weeks I have observed that the workload is consistent – which is most welcome. Currently I am deep in detective work, trying to get my head around our processes and educate myself on the history of the organisation. Generally, I tend to just have a list of financial or operational tasks to tick-off each day, but for the last hour or two I am involved in more exciting conversations with the team, solving problems, exchanging ideas on future engagements, and adding value to our current programmes.


7. What do you love most about working in the arts?


The arts keep me grounded, connected and enriched. It has this magical power which provides insight and influences progress, while granting individuals the space to appreciate and reflect. There is so much complexity in the actual work and an essential need to be constantly creative, resourceful and informed. It’s so different from any other sector, and although it can be really challenging at times, it is important to me that I am contributing to something bigger than myself.


8. What are you most excited about for the NZSQ in 2023?


From conversations so far there seems to be a pull and a drive to pursue new ventures, which I am really excited to explore. There are so many potential opportunities and I feel very blessed to have a seat at the table to brainstorm and create alongside the trust and the quartet. Very refreshing!


9. What keeps you busy outside of work?


Other freelance work I’m sorry to say. The stability this new role offers means that those ad-hoc contracts will ease and reduce as the year progresses. If I am not working (a rare occurrence), I like to spend my rest time in solitude delving into quieter activities like reading, walking, gardening, general art consumption, crafts, etc. I also have a very demanding special-needs cat who I commit my remaining energy to keeping happy/spoilt rotten.


10. If you could sit down and have a coffee with any musician (past or present), who would it be and why?


As tempting as it is to pick my teenage rockstar crushes, I doubt they would have anything intellectually stimulating to discuss. I’d be delighted with either Sufjan Stevens, Aretha Franklin, Bjork or Lin-Manual Miranda. I think I’m a sucker for the underdog or the odd-one-out and feel like people who aren’t afraid to do something different or question the norm are the most genuine, relatable, and interesting people to converse with. Does Prof. Brian Cox count?

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