The Chevening Clore Fellowship: a personal account

Niyati Mehta Consultant, Culture and Heritage
Chevening Clore Fellowship

My time as a Chevening Fellow on the Clore Leadership Programme has been absolutely amazing. I have learnt so much in so many ways. It has led me to spaces I never imagined, taught me life skills, and transformed my understanding of the sector. Little did I know when I started, it would also change the course of my career.

The start of my journey

My journey began with a need to learn and to grow as a professional. I was certain that I wanted to learn within the culture and heritage sector, even if it meant travelling outside of India.

The Clore Fellowship Programme has a very unusual model. I was fascinated by its approach in developing the qualities of leadership. I just had to apply!   

Round three of the application process had me gasping. I was asked what the major cultural challenges facing India were. I began to do research and realised it had to mean more than just stats. I took the plunge and answered it in my own voice.

Chevening Clore Fellowship

Residencies at Clore

Mention Bore Place and it brings a warm smile. Fresh air, walks in green fields, delicious food and wine, lots of chatter and laughter.

The Clore Fellowship Programme has two residencies. Both were intense, focussed, and for me, a necessary yin yang learning experience. 

Through the hands-on sessions, we learnt the nuts and bolts of leadership: vision and strategy, risk and innovation, creativity and finance, managing teams, and leading with change. Through theory and practise, we were exposed to the values and traits of different leadership styles.

Reflections taught me about who I was, what my personality traits were, and what my interests were. I learnt with my fellow cohort and from them. It was also the first time in my career I had the time to engage with ‘me’. The learning was hard-hitting but necessary. It brought difficult and challenging moments to the forefront. It took me to spaces within myself, revealed skills I had never known, and habits I needed to change.

The evening sessions gave us an opportunity to meet and listen to stalwarts in the field – Dame Vivian Duffield, Sir John Tusa, Sue Hoyle OBE, Sir Nicholas Serota, Hilary Carty, and Tony Hall. They candidly shared their ups and downs and experiences with us. It helped me to grow. 

Placement and mentoring

As I had projects with museums in India connected to the UK, I was keen to learn from a British perspective. My placement was at the British Museum under the fantastic guidance of Neil MacGregor and Dr Xerxes Mazda. I was able to build on my knowledge. I also undertook formal trainings in cultural strategy and impact as it would enable me to work better.

Chevening Clore Fellowship

My interest between India and the UK also extended to philanthropy. Clore had very aptly selected Robert Dufton, then the Director of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, as my mentor. Robert ensured that I had maximum take away from our sessions. He also had this remarkable ability to have me invited as an observer to closed door meetings of leading British intuitions so I could experience public-private partnerships in action. This year, I received a prestigious British scholarship and know my topic was nurtured then. 

In the long list that Clore sent us, I found Lee Chalmers, my charismatic coach. I was severely workaholic but Lee had an uncanny ability to find the knots and then deftly taught you how to untie them. I still love what I do but I draw the line on most days!  

Opportunity and beyond

Clore offered the opportunity to meet experts and leaders from the field to learn one on one. These included people such as Sandy Nairne, Michael Day, Roly Keating, Carole Sutter, and Justine Simons to name a few. Their honesty, humility, and commitment to the sector taught me invaluable lessons.

Whilst the first Clore residency taught me the power of great leadership, the second residency taught me the downfall from great leadership. Looking back, I realised it was crucial for me to learn to be grounded.

Chevening Clore Fellowship

Returning to navigate my own course

I returned home refreshed. Over the year, I had learnt from two international fellowships and exceeded my work targets. The next year was filled with hope. But the door closed and I felt there was no scope to grow. Over the coming months, I applied for numerous roles but could not fit into a generically defined job description. 

I decided it was time to navigate my own course. With experience from India and learning from Clore, I became a consultant and designed my own work profile.

It was a struggle at first, but over time, my unchartered course has led to new horizons – I have exciting assignments between the UK and India, and I teach. This year, in addition, I am also on a British research scholarship and participating in an international study tour.

Chevening Clore Fellowship

The beauty of Clore was that it gave me a wide-open sky and I could pursue my passions, interests, skills – and much more. It did not define, label, or slot me into a grid. You were encouraged to be you. You were inspired to be an agent of change.

An alumni at Bore Place once told us 'Clore will change your life'. I kept waiting for the change to happen only to realise there is never a specific moment when it arrives; as, with Clore, you are the change. You can make the difference.  


The Chevening Clore Fellowship is open for applications between 6 August and 6 November 2018. Fellowships will commence in September 2019. For more information and to apply, please visit the Chevening Clore Fellowship page.