In the latest of our Community Member Spotlight series, we catch up with Cheryl O’Garro – owner and founder of The Danver Group. As a self-confessed “nerd for the creative industries”, with a penchant for indie romance novels and a keen interest in audience participation and empowerment, we wanted to know more about how she sees the post-pandemic creative scene moving forward. Plus, we learn more about her go-to book recommendations and what she loves most about being a Creative Industries Federation member.
Fed: Tell us more about what you do…
Cheryl: I run The Danver Group, which I describe as a professional, support and recreational services consortium for the creative industries. I set it up just before I finished my Masters degree in 2017. We provide a range of services to individuals and organisations and at the moment, my day-to-day job is an ever-evolving role.
We are two divisions: Danver Communications which is PR, marketing and branding and Danver Talent which is entertainment and staffing. The grandmaster plan is to provide a cohesive set of services for organisations and individuals at all stages of their careers. Our USP is to, as far as possible, be as enthusiastic or involved about the creative industries as those we represent and help.
In fact, I actively look for staff who can demonstrate an interest in a related hobby. We’re not just another agency in it to make some money – my copywriter is a filmmaker, my art director is also an award-winning photographer, so everybody has some interest in the creative industries beyond just a pay check. It’s that enthusiasm that we want to pass on to our clients and pass on to the people we help support.
Fed: How did you come to start The Danver Group?
Cheryl: It was a bit of a winding road actually. I had the idea to start an event planning service and the idea evolved over the four years before I incorporated the company in 2017. Originally, Danver Communications was the company and my goal was to run my own PR agency but then I didn’t want to just be PR. I find myself scratching at the boundaries that I’ve created for myself and getting bored and I started thinking about all the things that creatives need, from marketing to legal advice.
I thought all of these facets could really help somebody so I wanted to start working in a more holistic way instead. I knew running a PR agency wasn’t enough for me; I wanted more and I had ideas that didn’t fit in the mould I had created – and so, The Danver Group was born.
Fed: What are you working on at the moment?
Cheryl: Within our entertainment and staffing agency, Danver Talent – which I launched about a year ago – I’m working on the back process to make sure that when clients and candidates come on board, they’ve got an excellent experience from beginning to end. We’ve also just launched a series of fixed price packages for Danver Communications to try and take out the headache of looking for marketing help. Similar to a prix fixe menu at a restaurant. They’re for creatives and creative organisations who need marketing help but don’t need the headache of wading through our bespoke offerings or worrying about escalating costs. That is a key project for us, especially with the majority of the creative industries in dire straits at the moment. Then there’s the blog series as well, which celebrate what the arts mean to people.
Fed: You’re super interested in audience participation – we’d love to get your thoughts on how and if you’ve seen this change since COVID…
Cheryl: For me personally, I’ve had a lot of withdrawal symptoms because I go to the cinema a lot and during lockdown, I couldn’t go for about five months. I found it really interesting to see how some organisations were really taking like ducks to water in terms of their digital offerings and others not so much. Obviously, there’s the issue of funding and what expertise teams have got in place within those organisations but I think it has been a wake up call to make sure not all programming relies on a physical venue.
I think COVID-19 has caused a lot of people to think about how they choose to participate in the arts and how to monetise and use the hobbies and skills they have to create new revenue streams, meet new people or just keep themselves sane! Netflix Party & Letterboxd were big things for me; they allowed me to keep up the tradition of watching and discussing films with my family even if we couldn’t be there in person.
My interest tends to focus on those who are heavily interested in the arts, but I think this was a chance for people who maybe didn’t feel the arts was for them beyond Netflix or Spotify to watch digital ballet shows, theatre shows etc. I applaud and welcome that wholeheartedly – access to the arts is a big thing for me.
Fed: How do you think audience participation will evolve in the post-pandemic world, moving forward?
Cheryl: There was actually a hashtag on Twitter the other day which I though was excellent and it was called #SeatOutToHelpOut. It was asking the government to subsidise tickets up to ten pounds per cost of a seat so the venues were at least getting some money back. I think that’s something the government should look into and something venues should adopt.
I think most arts organisations are now going to have to start thinking about other revenue streams and what else they can do to enrich the customer experience whilst also making some money. Audiences won’t want to go back to a world where digital offerings are an after-thought, so organisations will have to invest in that method of delivering the arts.
I think we’re also going to see a growth in apps like Letterboxd and Netflix Party – social discovery and sharing apps – to revolutionise how people share the arts with each other. So, the people who aren’t quite ready to access the venues can still access content. I think arts participation will definitely rise once it is safe to do so though. Going outside, watching a show, going to a concert – all these things we took for granted – will resonate more deeply with arts enthusiasts and general audiences alike.
Fed: You’re an avid reader – what are you reading at the moment and have you got any go-to recommendations?
Cheryl: A book got delivered to be today actually by Susan Jeffers called Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway and I’m really big right now on books which are all about getting out of your own way. I’m a 30-year-old woman so I know all about imposter syndrome so I’d recommend those books to anybody who is maybe in a similar position, where they’re starting their own companies or going freelance – especially now.
I’m a sucker for a good romance novel and Kindle Unlimited is just my favourite for discovering new voices. A particular author I discovered over the lockdown is Xyla Turner and I would highly recommend her for her blend of romance and social issues. I’m also finishing off You are a Badass by Jen Sincero which is a really fun but helpful guide into overcoming self-doubt, imposter syndrome and again, getting in your own way. A friend of mine has also lent me The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**K by Mark Manson, so that and Becoming by Michelle Obama are on my high priority list to read.
As for what book I would always recommend, I have to revert to a couple of my old favourites and say The School for Scandal by Richard Brinsley Sheridan or Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts.
Fed: Before you go, we’ve got to ask: what is your favourite thing about being a Creative Industries Federation member?
Cheryl: Just the sense of community and connection with the rest of the industry. Even having this conversation! Every time I get the Community newsletters it’s always really interesting to see what other people are up to and the opportunities that are out there. Sometimes people can forget that there are lots of issues and opportunities that connect everybody together across sub-sectors so it’s really nice to have that one membership which binds us. Especially now the arts are in trouble – it’s a nice feeling to be able to band together and come up with ideas, cross-sector, about what to do.
Knowing that I am part of a larger group which includes larger companies than my own, educational bodies, and key industry figures, and high-profile actors is a really enticing feeling, and there are always training and events that feel very relevant and worthwhile too.
If you’d like to chat to Cheryl about how The Danver Group could support your own entrepreneurial venture, head to thedanvergroup.com.
To find out more about our Community membership or to become a member, get in touch with the Fed team today!