Blog: Summer 2015 – New Writing, New Horizons, New Thinking from Cambridge to Montevideo

The summer is over and a new focus is upon us…A heady mix of theatre, training and teaching.

Following the success of Hotbed, our New Writing Festival in July with excellent new work particularly from Craig Baxter with Pictures of You, a play developed in alliance with Martina Simplicio. This was presented as part of What’s Up Doc? Series where playwrights are paired with Academic Collaborators.

Inspired by the ‘mental imagery’, emotion and the study and treatment of bipolar disorder, Pictures of You presented the intriguing meeting of two friends after many years apart. Full of unexpected lightness, warmth and love, the play explored the challenge of recalling the past and picturing the future…

The partner was Dr Martina Di Simplicio of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge

The best work from HOTBED in Cambridge was then transferred to London’s SOHO theatre where it ran for a week alongside the brilliant play from last year: bloominauschwitz.

Following bloominauschwitz’s award as the best new play at Brighton Festival it is now heading to the National Theatre Festival of Czech Republic in Brno. The play is now fully matured and ready for National Touring next year. We also hope to perform at The Edinburgh Fringe next year … watch this space. See the awards – we are in at 25 minutes:

and here’s the new video trailer of the play- hope you can catch it next year (or in Brno!)

Meanwhile we are focussing back on training too this autumn including developing new programmes for CEDAR and the Judge . At the Judge I have been made a Fellow in The Arts (Creative Engagement)…

Following its awards as Entrepreneurial University of the Year Anglia Ruskin has been going from Strength to strength and in particular the centre ran by Professor Lester Lloyd-Reason at CEDAR .

This unit remains a beacon in Enterprise thinking and projects and I get such a kick being around these guys. There is always a crazy project around the corner.

This week working with CEDAR I have been delivering Creativity and Curiosity workshops to Managers of Incubators from Montevideo in Uruguay!

Working with Peter Taylor from TTP group, we delivered a workshop about how to bring creativity into the workplace

Four great managers from Uruguay included “Good Cop” Paola Rapetti and “The Rule Man” Sergio Delgado.

Here’s twelve great stories of entrepreneurs in Uruguay Great people – great ideas and looking forward to heading to Uruguay to meet them again soon and more colleagues.

So, many projects on the go, will get inside them all in the blog over the next few weeks.

Here’s a reminder of what we do and how we do it;





20th September: Arts and Business …The can the circle be complete?

Another week in Kosice…dynamic  and challenging.

This Eastern Slovakian town is pretty and interesting.wpid-20140917_085335.jpg

I am working with the guys from Kosice 2013 to set up a new company Arts and Business Connections. This new organisation of which I will be Artistic Director/Advisor/Slave, will foster relationships between the two sectors encouraging dual opportunities in creative learning, exchange of personnel, training, incubation etc.

My specific role is to up-skill artists to deliver training for companies. This week I have a dozen meetings and three key training days.

Day one includes training Na Perone Theatre in improvisation delivery as actors in role-play. The guys are really talented and actor Peter creates some of the best improvs I have seen for a while including role-play for dealing with a colleague who is consistently late. In one improvisation he offers his watch as an incentive to encourage on-time delivery and in another allows his frustrations to bubble over to the point where he doesn’t speak but just plays out his emotions by drumming on the desk – the result is a terrified employee and a hilarious scenario of a manager being tipped over the edge. Haven’t laughed so much in ages. These guys at NaPerone have what is a key quality for workshop delivery; improvisation skills, ability to listen, a connection with the audience but mostly they have energy and presence.

In all of my workshops I talk about the energy and presence as vital dynamics in leaders or entrepreneurs but as well as talking about it, it is great when participants can see and feel it.

The skills of actors in training is to play and explore. It is the facilitators’ job to guide, provoke and cajole meaning through the participation of the audience. Our training scenario in this workshop has learning around action and reaction in behaviour and some techniques in opening and closing certain situations, but its real legacy and impact is that it is… memorable.

This idea that you are entertained whilst learning gives a real depth and value to training. We will never forget the techniques used or behaviours observed that made us smile or that we recognised in ourselves and others. Delivery of scenarios and characters are in many instances in cartoon form – but therein lies the opportunity for learning, it is the facilitator picks away at the cartoon until this truth is revealed.

If I want to watch real workplace scenarios then I can go and sit in an office.

If I want to watch a real domestic drama I can sit in my own living room. Neither have the craft to engage and reveal…and entertain.

I am however not a fan of pure role-play between colleagues in the training room. Mix an actor into the scenario and validity and impact grows. There is no longer competition between colleagues, but rather the challenge of engagement with the unpredictable actor expanding or challenging the rules and skills of the participant.

When we worked a few years ago with McLaren Formula One Racing it was the work with Comedian Darren Strange that brought a leadership training event to life. The group was not so engaged with management theory or self-reflection groups – they wanted a spark and Darren gave them that. Suddenly in word-play games and improvisation they had someone who they could pit their wits against. Someone who had skills that they could try to imitate but would find hard to conquer.


In all the years of training I have realised how much leaders in particular want to engage with people of talent. Whether they are musicians, actors or visual artists, the factor which heightens impact is the challenge of being in the presence of someone of talent.

I don’t necessarily include myself in this category – I hope people are intrigued and inspired by what I do, so it is often that I will bring in colleagues who are true experts in their fields to challenge people in how they see the world.

I have done this with Conceptual Artist Chris Dobrowolski, Actors Jasmine Hyde, Helen Gould, Caroline Rippin, Daren Strange and my colleague Patrick Morris, with Writer Fraser Grace, artist Idit Nathan sound composer Andrew Lovett, Musician Tom Harding (Tom the Pom), director Rachel Aspinwall etc

Fraser Grace- Writer:

Chris Dob: Artist

Tom Harding Musician:

Jasmine Hyde, Actor:

Andrew Lovett, Musician:

Idit Nathan designer:

Rachel Aspinwall:

More about Rachel and others later but  her Engine House Project is fabulous.

In one session for The BBC we assembled ‘all the talents’ literally getting five world-class artists to simply spend a day exploring the nature of their Creative Thinking (ok so that’s what they spend the License Fee on!!)

So stage one of my week was I think a success – I engaged also with a digital Artist Michaela Bottkova. Who I think is interesting – we have to work out how she can engage with businesses. One thing we are looking at with her is around an Artistic Residency where she can work with an organisation looking at their Products, People and Processes and articulating a response that could be of value to her as an artistic endeavour and for the business as an intervention.

The value of interventions is what took up a lot of day two in Kosice which featured a very interesting Case Study from Gothenburg with the project Tilt run by Pia Areblad who I co-presented with..

More on her dynamic ideas of the cross fertilisation of arts and business to follow…but here is an introduction to a comparative study on the impact of Artistic ~Interventions

But for me I have to ensure I can continue to feed Menagerie and myself with these experiences. I enjoy the challenge this world brings but for me as an Artist I need to ensure the circle is complete and it is not just money that is generated through these workshops and relationships.

The good news is that we are in agreement in 2015 to bring one of our shows Bloominauschwtiz to Kosice (and on to Moscow) so I guess the circle will start to seem more complete…

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