CLAIRE Whitaker’s CV is as diverse as it is eye-wateringly impressive.

She worked in corporate banking for NatWest Bank early in her career and for the iconic Decca Records.

For more than 24 years she co-led and ran the much-acclaimed live music and events organisation Serious. As a producer, she created and delivered innovative live music and arts special events, both in the UK and internationally.

She was chair of the Royal Commonwealth Society, is currently a member of Greater London Authority (GLA) Music Board and an ambassador for the mayor Sadiq Khan’s cultural leadership board.

In the 90s, Claire was as director of Africa 95, a cross-arts, ground-breaking UK wide festival that celebrated the arts of that continent and remains a trustee of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, a charitable trust helping people overcome disadvantage and lack of opportunity so they can realise their potential and enjoy creative and fulfilling lives.

She has served as an adviser and mentor to a whole host of other national and international organisations and worked on global events such as the 2012 Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.

These roles barely scratch the surface of her experience.

So Southampton can be more than confident that its bid for City of Culture status in 2025 is in very safe hands with Claire as director.

She was appointed to the position last year, when the world looked very different.

“I suppose that all the different things I have done seem to be coalescing in this role. I think it draws on all my experience,” she said.

“Being close to government, opinion formers and influencers has helped in understanding how to get things done.

“The most important thing in this process at the moment is listening, being relevant and showing people that culture is part of people’s everyday lives, not just something they go to see or do.

“It is based on the needs of the city. What Southampton really needs to look at, understand and respond to, win the bid, move forward and have a more prosperous and vibrant future.”

Consultation on the bid has not been straightforward because of the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.

But Claire added: “People have been amazing, generous and open in the conversations. I have been hugely impressed by the way the people of Southampton have given time, thought and headspace to what we need to understand as a city and what we need to win the bid.

“I have been amazed with how many people have been prepared to do that given what everyone is going through.

“They have appreciated getting together online and having more communication.”

There are several discussion groups bringing people together on a whole range of subjects including sports, health and heritage.

The consultation will continue for another couple of months, to broaden and deepen the process. This will include every ward in the city, each with its own characteristics.

Claire is delighted with the engagement from the business community.

People will clearly come to the bid process from different perspectives, given that diversity is at the heart of culture. But there is surely one thing on which everyone can agree.

If success with the bid was vital for Southampton at the outset of the process, it has become many times more important in light of current events.

Success would now be a game-changer for the city’s economic prosperity and its regeneration.

Claire added: “We are very much thinking the winning the bid will be part of our recovery from Covid-19. It will bring an attention and spotlight to the city that will in turn bring investment and jobs.

“We are really building that in to all we are doing. The culture programme will deliver real benefits.”