There are a number of things I would have written about if I hadn't been busy working on all sorts of exciting things, including a few days learning poems by heart, to music and film for a performance at Arc in Stockton last week. Here's a few quick notes on some of them.
Rollercoasters in Australia: Arts Queensland recently asked me to help kickstart their new blog by talking about adaptive resilience and the adaptive cycle. (Apparently their team is already using the frameworks in Making Adaptive Resilience Real with arts organisations, which I find unaccountably exciting.) You can read the blog here. I talk about the rollercoaster metaphor lots of CEOs used to describe their experience in organisations, and how rollercoasters (if well-designed and maintained) should feel dangerous and exciting, but actually be safe. There are other really interesting posts on the blog too.
Levy on tickets: this is a really interesting idea from Barry's Blog to create an endowment from adding a bit onto ticket sales. Although some people report declining sales, and I know some individual organisations do this for capital appeals, for instance, there seems something in this. Maybe a county or city-wide consortium could experiment with it?
The George Bailey Story: the news that Google has anointed the road that is home to BALTIC and The Sage Gateshead the UK's 'hippest street' was amusing on a number of levels. (Much as I like those venues, I'd not describe the street itself as 'hip' - try Lime Street in the Ouseburn if you're in toon and looking for hip. But still, great recognition for Gateshead, and the press surprise was enjoyable. It reminded me of a storytelling workshop I've led, to help people tell better stories of their achievements. To some classic paradigms - the struggle, the search, the vision etc - I added the 'George Bailey': what would your patch look like if you'd never existed? It's a powerful way of capturing the difference you make. South Shore Road would certainly look different without Gateshead Council and Arts Council's partnership - and lottery funding.
From expertise to asset: Catching up with Live Theatre about the progress of Beaplayright.com, which I helped with last year was heartening - it's working, and people all over the world are signing up for the on-line course. I was reminded again what an example it is of people turning what they do - run courses, provide expert advice, in this case - into something they 'own' and can make available in different ways. (The entrepreneurial Live Theatre also now have a great looking pub as a joint venture, backed by some adventurous funders, but it was a morning meeting so I didn't try it.)
Benchmarking: I gave some input into an interesting discussion over at MyCake's blog about how patterns of income change depending on how big an arts organisation is, and what the implications or reasons behind this might be.
Museums: the Museums Association attempting to swim up river with this intervention suggesting 'ACE investment should prioritise impact and public benefit, not infrastructure. ACE should offer investment to bring public benefit and impact, not subsidy for institutions.'
Helix Arts new blog: Toby Lowe, the new Chief Executive of Helix Arts, has started a new blog, and hit the ground running by attempting to define participatory arts. (Nice easy start!) Toby is a reformed policy wonk who was part of the management team at ACE with me for a while, till he got a taste for the wild side. He's a smart cookie, and Helix is a strong, reflective organisation, so this will be worth watching.
Variance: the stimulating but at times confounding experience of reading the latest issue of Variant on a long train journey. Many languages co-exist, in a slightly tetchy manner, from Andrew Dixon's frank, strategic and pragmatic answers to questions about Creative Scotland to a number of essays by academics, via an in-depth investigation of the finances of a recently outsourced cultural service. The academics in particular had me slightly twitchy. At times it seemed if there was one group more exploited or forced into self-exploitation than artists, it was academics. Hmm...I couldn't help thinking they might want to try working in a warehouse or a building site as health and safety gets eaten away somewhere and see how it feels, but that's probably unfair. Still, some provoking observations, and great titles - 'The presence of precarity', for instance.
Remembering poetry: As mentioned above, I recently did a 'gig' (as poets pathetically refer to them). This was part of a scratch night at Arc in Stockton, something I'd committed to in order to make myself get back on the poetry editing and performing horse. I decided to add terror into the mix by learning four long, blank verse poems by heart and doing them to music in front of a film based on old photos. Although I wouldn't describe it as fun exactly, it definitely got my artistic muscles back in action. What did I notice? The exposure, the obsessive nature of performing, the relief. The desire to do more. The way one idea leads to more.
A poem remembered: just when I was feeling most unsure about this performance, I came across Anthony Wilson's list of Lifesaving Poems. Anthony is a poet and educator, and an educator of educators, and he knows what he's talking about. It's a great list, and I was amazed to see a poem I wrote a long, long time ago in it - right next to Keats doncha know. He then wrote this lovely blog about it. Making any kind of art, but perhaps especially poetry, can be like sending out messages in bottles, for us obscure types anyway. So a poem being taken in by someone in this way was brilliant and affirming. I am slightly blowing my own trumpet by sharing this here, but hey, sue me.