I know where I’ve been, but I don’t know where I am going. The challenge is to remain present in the moment and not regret the past, or wish it back again. But also not to look so far into the distance to a Shangri-la which may not be reached; may not be what it seems; and you may be too knackered by the time you get there to enjoy it. Helping people – particularly theatremakers – set goals is my job. No, it isn’t…My job is helping people, including myself, achieve desires (to use David Whyte’s preferred word), ambitions or goals. They may be a tiny step along a very long path, but in the present they seem the right step to take.
That 2016/17 period from Maspalomas to Wood Green is the perfect time to think back, think now, and think forward. That’s Christmas to start of term for those who don’t know where I was when I wrote this, or where I’m going in a week’s time.
I’ve been using the last week of almost silent solo retreat in a tiny studio near the dunes in Gran Canaria to read and think. I highlighted in my last blog three books I have found unexpectedly interconnected: Crossing the Unknown Sea by David Whyte, described as a workplace poet laureate by The Washington Post. Insanely Gifted by Jamie Catto, who Tom Robbins describes as a human icebreaker. Both introduced to me by my authentic and artistic life guide partner Kath. And The Decision Book – 50 models for strategic thinking by Michael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler, which is one of those MBA digest books which saves doing an MBA. I have mixed my time between them and found how connected they all are in so many ways. I have spent time doing exercises from both Insanely Gifted and The Decision Book, whilst reflecting on the poetic and personal wisdom offered by David Whyte.
So where have I got to. Well, I have a pile of notes. An evening booked in the diary for when Kath and I get back together again after she has been to Australia and back, and I have been to many pantos and read many MA assignments. I will share this much.
Half of my working life, for the moment, is rich and fulfilling – not maybe so much for my bank balance, but for the opportunity to develop, lead, and establish the MA in Creative Producing course at Mountview. Applications are coming in for the 3rd intake next September – and this year’s 2nd cohort are a pleasure to work with.[Shout out if you want to know more about the course for you, your loved one, or those you inspire with your teaching]
The other half of my life has been in limbo since September (“carrot hoping” as one person described it), as three of us awaited a decision from Korea on a BIG project. Sadly everything is on hold as their President gets rather more attention than we would all like. Whether this is a short-term distraction, or enough to scupper the exciting 2-3 year project we were working on, who knows. All is silent from the producers office for 3-6 months, so we move on.
2016 has been rich and fulfilling for me in other ways. I have been honoured to have had the trust and honesty of some wonderfully diverse coaching clients. We have met (or skyped) to explore their worlds – a moment of uncertainty, a big crossroads, some creative overwhelm, or a sense of impending desert or storm. Each 50 minutes we have spent together has allowed them to find a next step, or 3-4 next steps, until we meet again. For 2017 I will increase the time I spend in coaching, and I am also looking at some of my own personal development to enhance my toolkit. The two sectors of clients I have been working with a lot at the moment are those in the arts/creative industries, and those in healing/alternative therapies. I find both groups of people a delight to learn from all the time.
Alongside this coaching, I have run monthly Producers’ Pool and monthly CGO Surgeries, together with the occasional group coaching session in various universities and centres, All have shown that there is much support and encouragement needed for emerging creative business leaders – and I am exploring what more I can do in 2017 along this path.
And the third strand of my freelance work, has been the initiation of the research and development programme, Revelation. Where we have been exploring “how we choose to reveal our bodies through life, performance and art”. This has brought together many strands of my own interests – as an explorer of alternative healing therapies and our bodies ability to know what to do next; as a facilitator of artists and creative; and as a naturist and explorer of the human body. I have learned so much from the 50+ people who have been part of the initial research, and the 100+ who have pledged their involvement when time permits.
I begin to understand so much of the scars people carry, the challenges of gender identity in a “guys and gals” washroom world, and the depths that people are going as therapists, academics, workshop leaders, and fellow practitioners to support people on their own journeys. I have met new people this year through festivals and workshops I have attended who I love and cherish/relish as though I had known them for years.
I have no idea how 2017 will develop for this r&d project. That is the one which is filling my notebook with questions of “what is it?” “where do the steps lead?” “what is my desire?”. I welcome close friends to journey with me on this sensitive and edgy route. I’d love to hear from people who feel that the subject deserves attention – and might suggest a creative business route forward.
2016 has been a shift in my blog, at least partly, from work to personal. For some readers, I am sure for some, these continuing grady revelations are odd. You may question what you thought I did, or was, over 40 years of theatre and musical theatre work. I guess I’m a late developer into my mid-life honesty phase, and the blog is my way of saying out loud some of the things in my head. It causes some people to come towards me and offer support. It probably causes some people to slip away grrrring a bit, and I suspect I may not notice that I have lost a colleague or friend until it is too late. To date only one person, a trusted mentee and advisor, has warned me off this splurging of my thoughts. I welcome his wise counsel – but I am choosing, for the moment, to take the risk.
So what with 2017 bring forward for the grady. Mountview will, I hope continue as an exciting developing world of creative work inspired by my current gang of 8. Coaching will grow if there are people who need my kind of offer. Group/University work will develop if invitations come through. And Revelation will either be a personal journey from 2016 which has taught me so much, or the start of a big journey through 2017 and for many years beyond.
One of the questions I presented myself as part of a bigger Personal Compass exercise from the Grove * group was – “what are the high points on my life and creative journey so far” – what are the footsteps in the sand that I can look back at with joy. I won’t share all of my 10/desert Island discs – but here are five which may re-join me in some way in 2017.[* PS I would put a link here – but the only one to the Grove group was $49 so I suggest you buy The Decision Book at £10.99. I still honour and credit them]
Questfest 1992 – the opening night of Closer Than Ever in Buxton. The first time I created a festival of musical theatre in uk/europe with a shed load of colleagues.
The power of coaching – being coached and being Big Ears / listener
My years with Cameron Mackintosh Ltd when based internationally. When I had the joy of a) learning what it was to work with a master of detail and passion and b) the joy of working and sharing experiences with so many people in so many creative nations across the globe.
A sun drenched Byron Bay, naked on a beach with family and Kath. Where I started a journey to get over a more shy/closed-up/selfconscious childhood [lots of work still to do] Being in Calais with Anna and Jonny at the Refugee Community Kitchen. When I realised that a) even I can chop a carrot and make a difference b) my children are amazing and c) the politics of the world are shot to pieces with power and shite.
As I type this I am listening to a Radio 4 broadcast with the wonderful Mairi Campbell on Auld Lang Syne – what could be more fitting
Happy New Year – and look forward, whilst enjoying the footsteps you have taken so far.