Poacher turned Gamekeeper

There were a few late nights over a few bottles of wine with a friend.

There were a few conversations playing Fantasy Theatre in our home city, usually starting with “Wouldn’t it be great if there was…”, “I wonder why there aren’t more people making…”, “I’d love to see / hear / come across…”.

Until the light dawned on us all of a sudden that we could just give it a go ourselves. Freewheel it. Make something happen. Write it, produce it, birth it, publicise it. Without our job titles (much though we love them), without a 3 year plan, without a commissioning agenda, without grand ambitions or pretensions to being proper artists, or fear of not being proper artists. Actually there was a bit of fear, but we bullied each other on past it until it was too late to worry about it anymore.

And so we did it. We had an idea – a very small, simple idea – and over the last 9 months, we’ve made it happen. With a lot of favours and phone calls, a few late nights and one or two more bottles of wine along the way. And it’s been every bit as terrifying and all-consuming and exhilarating as the biggest project I’ve turned my hand to under the auspices of Real Work. And possibly that bit more fun, knowing that we’ve gone off piste.

It wasn’t a surprise that what I’ve learned in the last 10 years as a producer would more than see me through this playful busman’s adventure. What I didn’t expect was that the reverse would be true too. That by being a writer of a play I’d learn a lot about how I could be a better producer of one*. And that by going indie I’d learn a lot – or remember a lot – about how organisations and infrastructures could work better, could be more supportive, more creative, more enthused. That by taking care of every penny of our £1500 of funding (thank you kindly Oxford City Council), I’d find some new ideas for how to get the most creativity out of the £100,000s I look after each year.

Variations on this list of the stages of the Creative Process have been doing the rounds online recently:

The Creative Process:
1.This is awesome
2.This is tricky
3.This is shit
4.I am shit
5.This might be ok
6.This is awesome
7.I am awesome

I’ve definitely gone through 1 – 4 in orderly succession and, with funding secured, the recording of the audio play complete, and three weeks to go before it all comes shuddering into life, I reckon I’m fairly comfortably oscillating between stages 5 and 6 most days now. Stage 7 is probably a first-night-g&t-induced hallucination but I’m looking forward to it immensely.

 

And so here’s what we’ve made:

Image

 

*When you think you’re being really good to artists, be better. Be kinder. Be more indulgent. Big them up more. Let them worry about something with you. Don’t get exasperated when they’re not worrying, they’re just sharing. Even though it sounds really similar to worrying. Know how to tell them they’re not the best person for a particular task without them thinking you’re telling them they’re shit at everything and that you wish you weren’t working on their project. Make them let other people do stuff with their project. Show them that you love their project every bit as much as they do. If you don’t there’s no way of blagging this bit. Then you need to work with a different artist. Or they need to work on a different project. Allow time for over-thinking things, and use tough love effectively but sparingly. A team of a few loyal friends achieves way more, way more efficiently than anyone could on their own, but also more than an army of organisational departments could too (except if you’re talking about the Olympics opening ceremony). Small is beautiful. And it means something. And it matters.

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