Blog: Thinking outside The Box Office (part one)

Prague October 2014

So Prague is interesting and challenging – meeting potential clients (on both sides of the fence) for the Arts and Business Connections project out of Slovakia.

This is an engagement project … matching Artists with the business/corporate world.

The ethos for this ABC project is to place Artists in the position to really contribute to, and challenge new thinking with businesses; as they become leaner and meaner or faster and fatter…

It is an interesting model for Artists and Businesses alike. They both have lots to gain but some things to lose too if they are not careful.

For the business, the idea of taking the eye off the ball, of letting Artists run riot, can be a real leap of faith. For some this is done with a strong safety net, for others the net is truly removed. Having a robust intervention plan where artists can influence but not distract business activity – providing training or artistic interventions – has real power at the heart of it.

Interventions such as those at Tilt in Sweden really help to manage the relationships.. The following is a long serious paper but if you are interested in Artistic Interventions it is very powerful:

For the Artist the challenge is over ‘selling out’ or distraction from ‘pure’ activities – why provide training for a company when you could be making art.? Why invest time in understanding a businesses challenges when you should look after your own?

Well apart from financial benefits (these interventions have helped keep my company alive for 15 years) there are new worlds to explore and new people to engage with and the business world is a world of dynamic activity that can benefit from and benefit artists’ sensibilities.

Conceptual Artist Chris Dobrowolski is very much still an artist – take a look at his brilliant work in the link . But he has also supplemented his work by engaging with teaching and inspiring people in the business world. Opening their eyes to his way of thinking. It is always great to share your thoughts, and if you get paid for it too…

Here is the content of the lecture Chris is giving at Bath University, coming up soon. “How Not to make a living as an artist”


one of the best spins on the art world and how to survive in it is Artist Grayson Perry’s talk “I Found Myself in the Art World…”

I remember one quote from his talk when he described the moment he declared he was an artist – when he realised he was making things and getting paid more than a carpenter…

For Digital Artists, Sculptors, Actors, Musicians and Writers there is a world of engagement that can inspire as well as let you acquire…

Prague is of course beautiful and has – yes Czech Beer – what more could you ask for?!

 So let’s make some money and use our skills…


 Back end of two weeks ago – change of scene to Kaiserslautern in Germany to develop a new script and run a workshop on facilitation skills. This is an interesting project for the US Schools in Germany. How weird is this…

So the thing to do here is create a Forum piece of theatre with Playwright Craig Baxter … challenges are to create an interesting piece of theatre that can then be used effectively to teach, inspire and challenge audiences on the dynamics of any subject > This particular script is around bullying…

We will see how it develops but we had three good days in rehearsals with some good young actors.. so there is hope yet! We will develop the script further and see if we can shape something that works..

It s not going to be presented at The National Theatre but it will be a quality piece of writing, it will hopefully do some good and we will get paid!

Highlight of the trip was being in an Irish Bar in Kaiserslautern the night that Poland beat Germany in the Euro championships – a lot of very happy Poles and pissed off Germans – a mild revenge for Poland…?

And so neatly onto Poland… which is where I have been for the last week..

Which hat now..?

Audience Development workshops for an Arts Agency in Warsaw,  then onto the 2016 European Capital of Culture; Wroclaw…

More in Thinking outside the Box Office Part Two…

Arts and Business Battle Blog: Interview… Moi?

23rd October, Cambridge

I am just back from Poland where I have been in Wroclaw via Warsaw and the week before that Prague and Kaiserslautern- lots to report on Arts and Business development in Prague, a new script in development in Germany, and a double dose of Audience Development in Poland…

So, all being gathered and will be shared over the next couple of days…

Meanwhile I have a couple of archive blogs- this one is from an Interview in St Petersburg in May 2014 with a PR agency for various Russian Publications..

I had completed Judging a ” Theatre Battle” ;a kind of Russian X-Factor for serious Theatre!. The questions are from the Journalist and the answers… are moi!

Q: You are not only a theatre director but also a trainer, a business consultant and a coach.  Once you said that whatever the topic of your training session is, eventually you teach communications. Why so? What is the reason behind it?

A: Communication is the greatest tool we have as humans. The ability to challenge people, to teach them or to let know we love or loath them.

The core of our human behaviour is articulated instinctively in our bodies and minds through our physical and psychological actions and words.

Wrapped up in this is instinct supported by the dynamic of knowledge and experience. In other words communication is what we say or show and how we say or show it!

These thoughts and actions are prevalent in great theatre, shaped and articulated by playwrights as reflections on our lives; how we live, love and fight together and what our value systems are. So when I ‘teach’ communication or theatre I am not really teaching, I am exploring…our mindsets, our cultures, prejudices and attitudes. This is a value system common to both theatre and business.

I have directed over 100 plays in 25 years. What I have learnt is that you can be profound and clear as long as you understand the stakes involved and what you are prepared to risk to get what you want for yourself and for others. In theatre this is shaped by a playwright articulated by an actor.

In business we are acting too. Articulating our thoughts and feelings and shaping them to suit our audience

When I teach theatre or business communication I am essentially doing the same thing… shaping clarity of message, creating a desired reaction from those we communicate with. Action and Reaction.

A reaction caused by what we say and how we say it.

Clarity of voice

Clarity of content

Clarity of body

I explore “What if..” Seeing communication not as a task but as an opportunity.

So what if… we say this or that… now or later… or not at all..?

In theatre these questions are explored on stage. In life they are explored for real. In everything we say and do in is how we think and how those thoughts are articulated and with what energy and purpose..

So in life I explore the collision of Art and Business and enjoy the cross-overs and contradictions that exist in both worlds.

 Q: Recently you came to St.Petersburg to take part in  the Theatre Battle. It was the second time you arrived to work in the jury of this competition. What is special about this project for you that makes you undertake the long journey..


I support it for the same reasons you do. Theatre is an exciting, dynamic experience that reflects our lives, engages our senses and challenges our thinking. It inspires and provokes us, it makes us laugh and cry.

So to see young actors inspired to undertake theatre a as public sport is fun, engaging and vital.

There is nothing like this in the UK so to see actors pitted against each other in non-mortal combat is inspiring whether it is in the UK or in Russia.

This battle happens to be in Russia. I am interested and intrigued by Russian Culture and theatre. I studied Russian Theatre at school and so have a sense of what Russian theatre stands for.

So as I sit and watch and absorb the Theatre Battle I feel I am part of an experience which is my destiny but also enjoyable, engaging and one where I can learn a lot as well as contribute ideas.


– What do you think of such events?

The theatre battle is fun, inspiring, frustrating and glorious all in one night! All because of the mystery and possibility of improvisation. Having to work together to engage with the material, the audience and the judges. A challenging, but ultimately rewarding experience for all.


And what is your attitude to creative activity of the youth in general?

Well done to the young people.! They take it seriously and gracious in defeat and victory. It is like watching a sport as they clearly have tactics, training and insights into difficult challenges.

These young people are inspiring, as they battle in a friendly but serious way. We see their energies positively used and that has to be good.


The last Theatre Battle you attended was called The King of Improvisation. What are the improvisations meant for? Are they needed on the stage, in everyday life, in business?

Yes of course. Quick thinking. Rapid response. Instinct and content combined. These are often the key to successfully negotiating challenging situations. Meetings, negotiations, sales… all require a structure that can be altered.. a framework that is flexible.

Improvisation is like a conversation that flows… you accept and build upon the previous moment. Or if you can’t accept, then you challenge and build upon that new moment. You need to be truthful, specific and clear. But also you are looking to move situations forward with an authentic style supported by dynamics such as humour or serious intent. 

– Do you teach improvisation?

Yes..! no .. I am improvising now… YES!


Q: You teach communications. You come to the Theatre Battle at invitation of BC Communications agency… Is the key word “communications” a mere coincidence here? Can you give three definitions characterizing our agency?

There are no mere coincidences. One of my favourite words is serendipity.

It is often mis-understood as being lucky. Actually it is more akin to being in the right place with the right people with the right tools to be lucky. So therefore making your own luck. Improvisation requires serendipity so I would describe BC Communications (who run Theatre Battle) as a company of serendipity – they create luck by working hard and creating the environment where great things happen. You sponsor or support a theatre festival and good things happen, exciting things with exciting people.

Another definition or characterization for BC Communications comes from Shakespeare –

All the world’s a stage ..

I think of the organization as having a global outlook with a dynamic approach to performance – performance in life and in work that is focused on effective communication.

And so lets do one more Shakespeare..

To be or not to be…

that is what communicating is all about – who do you want to be or not want to be – destiny is in your hands and BC Communications help that destiny happen!!!


 – When interviewing our employees and friends the last question we always ask is about the person’s motto or a quotation which encourages him or her for success, gives an energy boost or simply supports in an hour of need. Now it’s your turn to share it with us.

Ok How about …


 When asked why he would not cut funding for the Arts in favour of the war effort, he simply replied … “then what are we fighting for?”

– Paul, we wish you great success in everything and look forward to seeing you  in St.Petersburg soon.



Back in the USSR… Ribbon and Tin for Mr Putin?

4th October Moscow

Another great airline announcement…

It must be my hearing, because I swear the steward on my Aeroflot flight back from Moscow just announced ..

ladies and gentlemen… if you fill in the customer survey form you get a chance to win 150,000 Aeroflot meals…


“How to be an Intelligence Officer” This is the headline in the Moscow Times this morning… you too can be like Mr Putin…Back the USSR???

Reading about Ukraine, Economic Sanctions and political posturing you’d think that was the way it is going…

Moscow is cold…

I am on a quick visit to discuss our production of Bloominauschwtiz with Meyerhold Theatre (hopefully will happen next year) and to deliver a corporate workshop.

The workshop is a launch programme for Stockholm School of Economics… 40 students about to enter SSE Corporate University…

A shame the workshop is in a hotel room – not very glamorous – feels like a slightly dodgy wedding is about to take place.

We – me and Ilya – turn the room upside-down after lunch…

Our brief is to launch the programme with a bang and give a bit of a push on communication and team.

My colleague is a drummer – Ilya – great guy – talented and positive – a great find. He is warm and friendly and funny – I guess (I couldn’t understand a word he was saying but every 30 seconds there was a burst of laughter so I guess he must be funny!).

His approach is about learning music – particularly drumming by getting the basics in place then building up improv skills alongside competency. Good teambuilding, fun and not too long, this was one of the best music sessions I have seen…

My work starts around this Darwin premise:

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed…

We explore this idea…

And supported by Churchill’s quote:

I like the idea of learning… but I hate being taught!

I think some things got a bit lost in translation as some of the group think that Darwin, Churchill and Shakespeare were my examples of great leaders…

Maybe but, I just chose them because … well, they said some interesting things!

This confusion was confirmed when one of the participants harangued me during the coffee break as to why I hadn’t chosen Nelson or Wellington as examples – they are apparently much better leaders than Churchill?!

For ten minutes I was given a lecture on the strategies of these two men. I try to explain again that actually I just chose what I thought was an interesting quote from Churchill about learning, but my friend was having none of it.. first he tells me about Trafalgar then onto Waterloo…

I did however manage to gain some kudos as I closed the coffee break lecture by citing Napoleon on winning soldier’s minds by “offering them ribbon and tin..”

PB: laughter…

Sergey: (silence)

PB = “ Ribbon and tin…”

Sergey: (silence)

PB: “you know – for medals – for heroes.. Ribbon and tin!”

Sergey: “ah you mean Ribbon and Bronze…. Yes very good.. yes very funny”


Ok break over … and back to exercises

One exercise around a number counting sequence which is meant to demonstrate team instincts totally fails.

I kept trying and …failing. This was definitely lost in translation ..

ah well I came out with the classic trainer answer to why it had failed…

PB “That is the point! Is meant to fail!!”

Actually the game was interesting and made me think more and more around strategy being combined with instinct to create great team results. You get to know each other establish rules then engage..

The rest of the session runs itself, Ilya does drumming, questions are good, team is built.

Bar calls.

Moscow cold…

I find a drink and hear .. “and… now as for Napoleon…”

Oh God.. maybe a workshop on great military leaders next???

I wonder would Putin make it onto this list..?

Ribbon for Mr Putin?

BLOG: Could The Dalai Lama do this workshop? RESPECT!

Traveling on WizzAir includes the stress of the 16 Euro seat…

I sit in an extra legroom seat – pay an additional 16 Euros at time of booking (well , Ok…someone pays it for me!), and enjoy the comfort of space and the responsibility of manning the Emergency Exit. Travelling with colleague Paul Bogen once, when asked by the Steward ‘’”are you comfortable and confident to use the emergency Exit?” he replied: “yes I’ve done it before many times” which got a great double take.

The only problem is that the 16 Euro seat is in a row that today is only sat in by me – two lovely extra large spare seats – and every few minutes a little old lady or mother with child, asks me in Slovak “is this seat free?” to which I grimace and say…”I think so” knowing full well than it a few moments they will be turfed out of the seat unless they pay 16 Euros.

On this particular flight I have four people try sit next to me … none survive the 16 Euro seat challenge. The looks to me as they leave are between pity and disgust as overweight men, old ladies and pregnant women are removed and forced to the back of the plane!

However, nothing will ever beat the time when flying from Chicago I unwittingly forced a passenger out of his Business Class seat into Economy so that I could sit with my upgraded family. So embarrassing when I realised a few moments later what I had done… Trudi (my daughter) offered to take him my (his) Champagne but when I saw he was now seated in the middle of three people next the toilet at the back of the plane I thought it was best to leave it…

The WizzAir seat game stress is relieved for a moment when I am sure the announcement is to:

“Please step away from the plane aisles to allow boring passengers to enter…”

Bit harsh.

I feel like offering some of these less interesting people 16 Euros to sit next to me…

News this week includes the exciting development that I failed a security check to work with an Israeli Executive working on some kind of project around drilling (or nuclear weapons – something like that..).A request came in that this guy’s leadership style “needed shaking up” and that I was the person to do it. Well not according to The Mossad who found something unacceptable in my background. Too many trips to the Middle East maybe? Or just the extremely dodgy passport photo? Either way I feel somewhat impressed that I am an official security risk and mildly relieved that I don’t have to shake up some aggressive businessman…

No aggressive businessmen this week – rather the opposite charming and very interesting Olaf Baumann – Managing Director of FPT Slovakia. Going through transition (take-over) from RWE to FPT (see blog 3rd October).

I spend some time in a small coaching session looking at options going forward to help cement a positive workforce transition. He is doing the right things – open communication channels – and questions like “are our jobs under threat.. ?” “Yes”.

But mostly focussing on opportunities for staff including possibility of working in Vietnam, Vietnamese workers coming to Slovakia and all the cultural and work possibilities this brings. My main additional suggestion is to bring in some new faces that are not employees of FPT in any capacity. This neutral talent will be able to focus on work – not change. Getting back to tendering and supporting current contracts. In Leadership terms this tactic can prove powerful and effective – the positive catalyst of new faces…

I met with all the artists in development at Tarantinos Bar – the legendary watering hole of the Creatives.

Essentially as far as I can tell someone’s living room with a shelf with alcohol on it… I think people pay for their drinks but not always.

Anyway well worth a visit if you want to meet an artist or creative in Kosice! Many of these artists are moving forward with professionalising their products and practises and great to catch up with them…

Interesting developments with menagerie and potential partners include a joint project with new writing company NaPerone for our Festival in 2015 or 2016. Looking at cultural possibilities in making theatre in two languages and from two perspectives. Looks really interesting and I hope it comes off.

I have an image of musicians, two languages and for some reason… a ladder! Not sure why… but let’s see.

In addition to this we are looking at bringing our play Bloominauschwtiz to the Mazal Tov festival in Kosice in 2015. These relationships and possibilities are the creative collisions I have been hoping for and will be looking to develop and exploit more and more for everyone’s benefit. Mirka Vargova is one of the directors of the festival and also leading on development of Arts and Business Connections…

The final event this week is working with Arts and Business Connections to deliver a workshop for T-Systems a company that is part of Deutsche Telecom. T- Mobile etc.

Today is Guiding Principles Day – celebrating organisational Values including the usual suspects:

  • Customer Delight and Simplicity
  • Team Together
  • Best place to Perform
  • Count On Me

And today’s topic to be brought to life … Respect and Recognition.

My tactic is as always to bring the dynamics behind such words to life. We play games, discuss behaviours and challenge thinking…

75 Slovaks and a very stuffy room make it challenging. But they are a great crowd and we have fun.

I am told to ‘”start” exactly at 2pm – I must respect time…

OK here we go…

Understanding authentic interactions, tactical performance in communication, instinctively understanding people and establishing facts to support suppositions…

It gets interesting as we explore self–confidence , creating confidence in others and building on personal as well as organisational values. It all gets a bit Zen and I can hear myself getting suddenly out of my comfort zone as we touch on  religion and morals (clearly getting way out of depth now)…

“Paul how can I be comfortable in my own journey…? ”

“Err.. Ok lets explore this notion through a game with juggling balls shall we??!!!”

Actually I really enjoyed the day. Exploring Tolerance vs. Respect is interesting and the answers are as always, somewhere in the room.

I stick to what I know – create a framework for a positive communication dynamic…we do improvisation, create Tableaus, we describe scenes and scenarios and act out situations. In-between we play games, jump on chairs clap , shout and run around and finally dancing out of the room to Aretha Franklin’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T…

and of course get out the Juggling Balls of Respect! see …nothing that The Dalai Lama wouldn’t enjoy…



BLOG: The Evolution of Change: Darwin and Juggling Balls

Kosice, Slovakia

You know you have started to be part of the local scene when you are sitting in the window of a pizza parlour and in the space of 20 minutes three people knock on the window and say “hey Paul – what’s going on? You live here now!?!”

My final major intervention in Kosice this week has been working with an organisation that is going through the challenge of being purchased by an international company. The company in Kosice was RWE Slovakia and is now FPT.

This was a workshop on Change which I enjoyed lot.

17 participants and I had a great fun exploring change and how to manage it. I focused on interactive exercises including a lot of improvisation and storytelling

The improvisation requires this notion of accept the situation and build on it. The Storytelling allows exploration of how we tell and shape our own stories.

So lots of interactive exercises and lots of capturing of ideas around positive mind-set and challenging thinking.

However I did one thing I haven’t done before which was exploit my basic knowledge of Charles Darwin.

I was thinking about the workshop the day before in the sauna in the hotel and Darwin popped into my mind (I know, weird) but he did.

I guess it wasn’t such a surprise if you are thinking about Change that you might think about Darwin…

We (Menagerie) created a play about Charles Darwin a few years ago which toured the UK and USA. Re: Design by Craig Baxter was about the correspondence between Darwin and an American Professor Asa Gray. It was a fascinating play to work on as the correspondence was sparkling (Gray was a Christian but supported Darwin’s Theories) but mostly because we got to learn so much about Darwin.



So I opened the workshop with a obvious quote about Darwin’s’ theories which has relevance to a workshop on change:

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed…

But then I took my workshop crew on a little Journey…

I had put tape on the floor of the workshop to replicate the Sandwalk that Darwin would walk along in his home at Down, Kent. From 1842 until his death in 1882 he would walk this Sandwalk every day that he could, often twice a day. This walk of roughly a mile had many functions and proved valuable to him as he ruminated and also valuable for our workshop … to ponder as we walked the green coloured tape-on-floor Sandwalk!

The idea that you do the same thing everyday is interesting because repetition creates intimacy.

Darwin could see the small changes every day – walking in one direction then in another. He could see and feel the real world and observe its delicate transformations. Of course sometimes an event such as a storm would dramatically change the landscape and it would appear very differently in different conditions from snow to sunshine. But I love this idea that Darwin gave himself the space to move away from correspondence, from writing up ideas or experiments and even from family time, to walk this walk. To be out in the real world and to observe…


I like this story and will develop more… however the good people of the workshop room at Kulturpark may not be so happy when they go into the space on Monday. As I removed Darwin’s taped Sandwalk a lot of tape remained stuck to the floor – so good people of Kulturpark you have a bit of Darwin to contend with – sorry!

All of our work on our play about Darwin was developed in association with the Darwin Correspondence Project in Cambridge which is the biggest and most important archive of Darwin’s Correspondence. It has lots of great stuff and links to our production too…

Our workshop on Change included a bit of Shakespeare, a bit of Churchill and of course a bit that other great Englishman…????

My contribution mainly focused on telling jokes doing the odd acting exercises and throwing and the good old juggling balls – hey what change management workshop would be complete without them!??!!

Good luck to FPT…  may the force of Darwin be with you…keep juggling.

Blog: The Artist with the Critical Eye

September 23rd: Kosice, Slovakia

My second Artistic Intervention in Kosice this week is with Pia Areblad from TILT (artistic Interventions with businesses in Sweden)and Giovanni Schiuma from University of The Arts London (measuring Artistic Impact in Business).

I am working with Pia for the first time and Giovanni for the second.

For some reason Giovanni brings out the mischief in me…

I don’t know if it is because of his Professorial status or just because he is Italian!

Or maybe it is just the way he pronounces Metaphor (“METARRRFOUR”) that makes me smile. But it is more than that. I just want to break all the rules around him – I actually think it is because of his book on Measuring Artistic Impact in Business… I feel I want to make a disruptive impact that cannot possibly be measured (of course what ever I do will sit in one of his Measuring Quadrants even if it is just the “this was crap” section!).

We are running a workshop for around 40 artists and business people to explore how and why they should work together.

Once again the project is promoted by the indefatigable Michal Hladky from Kosice 2103

The idea is that I introduce the workshop with a story, but the participants are sitting there in the ‘circle of shame’ looking terrified /bored/in shock, so I feel I have to shake them up with some exercises and movement. So… 30 seconds into the workshop and we are off agenda running round like crazed fools.

It had to be done.

Pia is next up and now she looks in shock too we are off agenda!

She facilitates two questions:

  1. What are the qualities of artists ?
  2. what are the challenges of modern business?

We discuss and she captures.

The flip charts reveal the potential for engagement as ‘Creatives’ can uniquely (? different perspective?), connect with or reflect on modern challenges of technology, time and money etc.

The answers are not yet clear around the value of using an artist to solve a ‘real’ problem. One person asks … so how can an artist help sole a problem like absenteeism at work.? For the group this seems so far away from possible – we remain sceptical.

The Case Studies help though. Hospitals in Sweden that have used artists to not only engage with the space and working conditions but to provide collective artistic expression (through creating a giant weave in the reception by employees and on put display), which had great impact in the sense of team in the hospital. But what was also interesting about this case study is that the artist had a free role to not just create art but to use her artistic thinking to engage with problems like extended waiting times, lack of facilities etc. Not just to create a sculpture or painting that might make people feel better, but to challenge the core management decisions with an approach much like the Court Jester who has the power to challenge the norm.

The results of such interventions were positive – measured by efficiency savings, reduction in absenteeism and improved ‘mood surveys’.

Other examples of Dancers in factories and Conceptual Artists in Hi -Tech companies were impressive. The fact was that the companies were opening up to having someone on-site to observe and engage with the company.

The Artists were getting paid but also growing their own intimate sense of a place and space. Yes Sculptures were made, music played or walls painted but the artists were also behind ‘enemy lines’ engaging and disrupting and therein lies a world of possibility…

My work using training is simpler in many ways. I myself and other artists support companies with training workshops. We use actors or visual artists, dancers or musicians to explore four key areas each with two key dynamics;

The core areas are Leadership, Creativity, Communication skills and Teambuilding with each intervention establishing itself as building skills or participants undergoing an experience.

With programmes that last a day or a year I discussed the different programmes we had undertaken.

The fifth area of training is what I call the What’s the Problem? Tell us and we will see what we can offer – Bullying, Teaching, Idea Generation, Innovation, lack of energy etc..?

We are able to act as a bridge between the Creative and Business world and facilitate the connections.

Giovanni concentrated on measuring impact with what he calls AIBs – looking at artists in the workplace having impact on individuals and organisations in terms of skills and culture. Looking at impact from “entertaining people” to “transforming an organisation”, Giovanni has produced some much needed methodology in measuring.

The session closed with a live case study from Kosice Airport. They have been working with Miso HUDAK – a “proud Slovak Citizen of Kosice” who has been doing the work as encouraged by the Tilt approach. He has been inside the airport to engage with what he sees and feels as part of the experience of arriving and leaving. The management team and artist were in the workshop and both seemed positive about the suggestions; from aesthetics to practical improvements. His role has been to be the critical eye…and to make the airport a better place to come to, and leave – a love letter to Kosice???


But all 3 lied about the VIP Airport Lounge at Kosice being open on a Saturday …as I am sat writing this amongst the proletariat…!

I need an artistic intervention… quick!