Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Movingpictures9: collaboration and cooperation

There seem to be a run of events about collaboration, working together, or other ways of putting this. I'm talking at one tomorrow at Northern Stage which you can also see at various places and, I think, on-line. (Certainly there'll be a twitter stream to follow.) You can read about it here.

I don't have time right now to explore the theme in detail, I'll maybe do a wrap up of thoughts from this and last week's LARC event at the RSA. But there is a strand that says collaboration is not always the right thing, and that some things described as collaboration are more like cooperation. The above video may shed some light.

For those whose minds work differently, the video below may also help.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Movingpictures 8: the importance of urgency

John Kotter is one of the leading writers on change, and leading change. His ideas have proved really useful in my coaching work, and in managing myself. This is an interesting video which focuses in on one aspect: urgency, the need to keep driving the really key things forward: making things happen everyday. This is obvously the opposite of complacency but also different from the kind of frantic activity or discussion which doesn't make those vital things happen.

(I'd never seen Kotter before. There's something about him that reminds me of the older Mark E. Smith of The Fall, after a very thorough detox. I'm probably imagining it - but why would I imagine that? Answers on a postcard.)

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Out of time: a bit of a round up

issue 39/40 cover
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.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Movingpictures7: world summits and Andy Palacio

Just as in October my mind always wanders back to the years I used to run a literature festival, June now always makes me remember the World Summit on Arts & Culture which Arts Council England co-hosted with IFACCA in 2006. In fact today it's five years ago exactly since the opening day - one of the most stressful but enjoyable days work I've ever done. (I was officially leading and 'carrying the can' for the whole thing, in my role at ACE.) You can see the conference report here to find out what we did.

Sarah Gardner and the team at IFACCA are currently preparing for the 5th World Summit, which takes place in Melbourne in October - read all about it here. I can heartily recommend attending a World Summit for funders and policy makers and those interested in that field with the time and budget to do so. Although my experience of the one in NewcastleGateshead was a bit skewed by hosting it, I did attend the next one in Johannesburg - you can see what I wrote about it on the old Arts Counselling website here to get a flavour.

This kind of international, intercultural dialogue seems all the more important these days, not less. It's no coincidence, for instance, to see 'international partnership' as one of Creative Scotland's three cross-cutting themes, given Andrew Dixon's experience of bringing the World Summit to England and directing the programme for the event. Although you can do a lot virtually these days, it is the human connections made that I remember most powerfully, and that I think would make a trip to Melbourne worthwhile for many.

One of the people I met at our Summit was the musician and cultural ambassador from Belize Andy Palacio,who sadly passed away young a few years later, just as his music career was taking off. He was a lovely guy, and we connected over trying to keep both practices in harmony. So this weeks' 'moving picture' is not one of the nice IFACCA videos you can see here but Andy.

(Writing this has also made me realise I should probably stop using the photo taken five years ago, as it is now quite a long time ago. Although as everyone tells me I look 10 years younger since I left ACE, this means I actually look older in the photo than I do now...)

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Movingpictures 6: Make your own damn art world

This is a gentle little film from the Guardian website about Bob and Roberta Smith. A few years ago he helped create an event at mima in Middlesbrough called 'Make Your Own Damn Art World', which has since become one of my mottos. At the actual event I agreed to act as the Banker and my son and I gave out monopoly-style money to people, which they could give to the best artists in the art fair that day - or just to their friends or relatives if they wanted to, not that the art world is like that really, obviously. His work makes me laugh and think, which is not something I can say often enough about contemporary visual arts. I do also find it rather beautiful, in a ramshackle way. 

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Movingpictures 5: poetry for the busy senior executive?

According to my MBTI profile, I am, amongst other things, 'pressure-prompted'. To help keep the poet in me alive I put myself under the pressure of doing a performance at Arc's Scratch night - next week. This has been a great spur to writing and rewriting and working up a performance based on parts of a sequence called The Dunno Elegies. I'm looking forward to it very much, albeit with a hint of terror as I'm trying to do some things I've not done before, and the other people sound like proper performers and I'm just an easily-bored poet. (I actually did a couple of scratch nights at Arc's ancestor Dovecot Arts Centre way back - as Scratch was the name of a poetry magazine I founded in 1989 and ran for nearly a decade and we did some launches there. Strange echo.)

Anyway, I've been thinking about poetry and audiences, and this video made me laugh. It's Fry & Laurie as young-and-pythonesque, rather than National Treasure and US Star Singing The Blues but all the better for that. It also contains a great idea - if Inpress don't come out with a Travelling Poetry Bag soon I'll be sorely disappointed.