What lies Underneath?

So a quick catch-up blog which will have to cover December…

At the end of December I had two key events – Creative Team building training in Zilina (Slovakia) and visiting Limerick to see a new piece of theatre …

Zilina was the residential training event supporting Akademia Zilina.

http://bit.ly/169UbXq

Working with Peter and Suz of NaPerone Theatre Company of Kosice.

http://naperone.sk/en/show/1837-theatre-on-the-platform-

The training was for 25 secretaries from a German automotive firm. Most of them worked as PAs and all were female…It was an interesting dynamic!!!

Peter and Suz were the Actors and the task was to work with the secretaries on their communication skills. We did some fun role-plays which mostly seemed to involve the girls abusing Peter (the boss) or instructing Suz (the PA) to abuse him!! Mostly I think they used the opportunity of training to say and do all the things they wish they could in the real world.

It was fun when the girls instructed Suz to give the boss an annual review on his own management style and skills  – it was very funny and very harsh… and who knows maybe some of the fun stuff will seep through to have an impact on how they work in a challenging environment when so much is expected of them?

Our training partners Akademia Zilina provided the translation and support for me and I worked with the actors to bring the whole thing to life in a dynamic way – and they were very good.

Peter and Suz also ran exercises – which included two classic moments. Firstly we went outside  of the hotel onto a terrace (it was a Ski Resort) and did some vocal training which included projecting our voices towards the mountains. After ten minutes of throwing voices we heard a voice come back from the other side of the mountains “Help!” – maybe they were training too???

The other classic moment was also outside when Miro (one of the other trainers) was trying to do a creative thinking exercise – with eyes closed “imagine yourself doing… so and so..” but the whole time we were doing the exercise we had one of the other trainers shouting “Kubo” “Kubo” “Kubo” as her dog ran madly in between 25 bemused (and hung-over secretaries).

“KUBO!!!”

Overall less about art and creativity and more about team-building and dog handling but an interesting challenge.

And most importantly I trained up actors to deliver this type of training – this is now an income stream for them as we build up Arts and Business Connections in Slovakia as part of Creative Kosice.

As 2015 evolves I will be training more and more artists to use their skills in Arts and Business cross-over activities which we hope will expand with international projects galore – watch this space!

http://www.kosice2013.sk/en/

The end to the Zilina trip was a three hour wait on the train station  to get the train back to Kosice – very cold … but i did feel like i was in a European Art Movie … stuck in a station in the middle of nowhere…

wpid-20141114_172302.jpg

Ireland

In December I was also in Ireland for the premiere of Underneath by Fishamble Theatre of Dublin.

http://fishamble.com/category/current-plays/

Limerick is … well… who knows I spent the entire time in bars or in the hotel spa!!

But I am sure the rest of it is very nice!

Pat Kinevane was the actor starring in Underneath a one-man show he has penned about life death and judging (or not…) the book by its cover.

I love Pat as a performer (and writer) having produced his last two solo plays Silent and Forgotten at Hotbed Festival over the past couple of years:

http://www.menagerie.uk.com/hotbedfest/hotbed-2013/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Yl-RY3z7ak

One first viewing I was not totally convinced by Underneath. It appeared to be covering familiar (similar) ground in terms of both subject and particularly style,  as the previous piece Silent.

However I got sucked into it enough to care and to be challenged by the notion of how we see each other –particularly physically. And to be honest it has been a slow burner for me – watching it on opening night is always a little difficult and material needs to settle, but the material has stayed with me – now six weeks later I am still with the heroine as she battles societal ‘norms’.

Pat is a truly mesmerising performer and the material is strong and relevant. My only true criticism is the insertion of jokes which don’t come directly out of or feed into the story. They are unnecessary and really break the rhythm. This aside, Underneath is a modern parable brilliantly told that will challenge the way you view ‘beauty’ .

I hope to grab it for Hotbed – and I know it will be in Edinburgh at the fringe in 2015 – so definitely catch it before it gets its Fringe First!

OK, travels since Limerick include Czech Republic, Germany and Holland – more to follow… let’s see what lies beneath…

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.

http://fpt-software.com/News/FPT-win-new-customer-big-deal-Europe-RWE.html

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.

http://www.menagerie.uk.com/productions/archived/redesign/

VIDEO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-qViHvIUlU

 

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…

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/home-of-charles-darwin-down-house/garden/sandwalk/

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…

http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/

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).

http://www.tillt.se/in-english/

http://arts4business.org/book-value-of-arts/author/

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!).

http://arts4business.org/book-value-of-arts/value-of-arts/

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

http://www.kosice2013.sk/en/

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???

Miso: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw1djZ4T9cY

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!

 

 

 

 

“Bully Busters”… The Power of Theatre…

So I read the report that confirmed I was right! Luton is OFFICIALLY the worst airport in Britain (see previous Blog from Luton to Goa…)

See report: http://ind.pn/1wlXx1Q

This morning heading to Kosice. It was chaos at Luton with total dis-organisation as per norm. But the biscuit–taker was the unnecessary ‘cruelty’ of staff demanding money at the gate from passengers for extra luggage … so aggressively.

Come on WizzAir lets have some sense of compassion, common sense and understanding … you are damaging yourselves and gaining nothing by this power trip of aggression.

Yes you want the money, yes it is printed on the poster and website that you can only take one bag on the plane but this is like some form of Torture Sport and you are trying to take the gold medal away from Ryanair … Yes I know this has all been said before and there are so many ways to approach challenging situations …blah blah blah… but the fact is that the way you act towards someone is so easy to adjust to get a cleaner more efficient response…and I’ll say it …nicer and more professionally handled too.

OK .. breathe …

… better…

So on my way to Kosice again for an Arts and Biz event… Creativity and Business…

And indeed this week has been the week of Slovakians as I have also been working with a Kosice 2013 study group in Cambridge too. More of that later.

BTW I am listening to new Kate Tempest album – great…

http://bigdada.com/release/kate-tempest/everybody-down

Before the Slovakians come and go .. I have briefly been over in Germany (Kaiserslautern) on a big US Army base… !!!

I am working with an “old” friend Dane Winters on a project using theatre as a tool for combating Bullies (should do one for WizzAir never mind US Army).

This project is right up there in terms of left field I have to admit.

But what can’t theatre be used as an instrument to explore…clearly very little!

We are going to work up an interactive Forum Theatre piece which can be used by local communities in American Schools in Europe (Armed Forces families) to help understand and hopefully have an impact on combating Bullying.

http://kaiserslautern.armymwr.com/europe/kaiserslautern/

We will be working on cyber bullying and the “old school” bullying… “give me your sweets (candy?)”… playground stuff.

Aimed at two age groups 8-11 and 12-16, we will create a framework theatre piece that kids will then take ownership over and promote their own solutions for each of the characters and situations.
I am working with Playwright Craig Baxter to produce a quality play and hopefully a quality product. Craig has written many pieces for us and a while back won a v. prestigious award for his play The Altruists (and $10,000!)

http://stage.cnsi.ucsb.edu/competition/winners/fourth/the_altruists.php

Working within sensitive but dynamic boundaries I hope we can create something of real value that the kids have ownership over.

This type of Forum Theatre – interactive style – has of course been used for centuries in community environments.

At College we study Augusto Boal as the architect of modern forum theatre where social and political issues would be explored on the streets of Rio or Sao Paulo. Essentially he sought to make the people /audience/witnesses active participants in the theatrical experience:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusto_Boal

His work fusing theatre with citizens had a great impact – establishing large and small-scale work on the streets of Brazil focusing particularly on issues of Human Rights through the Theatre of the Oppressed:

http://www.theatreoftheoppressed.org/en/index.php?useFlash=0

Our bullying forum project is more controlled/sanitised and certainly on a smaller scale, but using these techniques we can get closer to this community approach and potentially have a high impact through “ownership of ideas” .

Indeed my maddest use of interactive discussion was at the British Consulate in St Petersburg, Russia where we explored “Bullying and Harassment in the workplace” as part of staff professional development. This sounds strange, but of course is as relevant to train people in all elements that can put pressure on organisational culture. These challenges arise in a Consulate as in any other workplace environment and in fact it is sensible and important to explore. It just sounds weird taking the phone call … “can you do a work a workshop on Bullying and Harassment for the… British Consulate, Russia.”.

 In workplace scenarios “bullying” can often be about mis-understanding of culture and expectations. For example additional workload which is acceptable for one side is not for another and tensions can easily rise.

When tensions rise in a Consulate, the Playground or the Airport – it is about communication – and making sure that the communication is clear and fair and yes … even empathetic!

It is not about being just nice to people, it is understanding the impact of your actions.

The saying goes you are being bullied if you think you are being bullied.

So our focus is to establish measures to understand the dynamics and not allow outside pressures (time, money, culture, background, looks etc.) to prejudice us in our interactions.

Yes… we feel stressed, angry, mis-understood … but the aggression and wilful injuring of a 2nd or 3rd party is then when it becomes bullying.

And then what…? Well you need the power of theatre to solve the problem – of course!

Bully Busters are on the way..!

Blog: “Teaching” Six Steps of Entrepreneurial Thinking (… or seven).

BLOG 1st September 2014

Teaching time is almost upon us and I will resume my role consulting in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in Cambridge with CEDAR. Or as my contribution is know in our household… “Teaching” (said with accompanied hand-movements of speech marks).

http://www.anglia.ac.uk/ruskin/en/home/microsites/cedar/team.html

Today was the first day looking at plans for me to support teaching (“teaching”) on the BA and MSC In Entrepreneurship.

The question comes – firstly can you teach Entrepreneurship?

Then if you can why is a theatre director involved?

Well the answer to number one is beyond my pay grade (dividend grade?) and the answer judging by the number of courses worldwide seems to be yes. Everyone I know says the number one course is at Babson College in the States but the course at CEDAR is also unique and interesting because of the practical content.

http://www.babson.edu/Academics/centers/blank-center/Pages/home.aspx

What I do know, is that you can immerse yourself in a world that can equip you to really understand and to and prepare you to be a professional part of it. I feel there is plenty of motivating, cajoling and inspiring to be done besides planning and strategy, and I guess this is where I come in… focusing on what I know about: getting the best out of people.

Challenging thinking around People, Communication and Creativity in the workplace, I try to be practical, a bit of a bully and a critical friend.

I also learn a lot myself …as the students constantly ask “what on earth are you doing teaching on this course? If you were that successful you wouldn’t need to.”

To which I answer: “ you can learn a lot from my mistakes ??? “.

It is clear from the faculty meeting today that the powers that be (Professors etc..) don’t want me to spout from text-books on Maslow’s’ Theory of Motivation or Schumpeter ‘s Big Bang opportunities (although they are interesting).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_destruction

It is clear my role is about shaking students up – motivating them and getting them to understand and explore some clear dynamics around how they operate as potential Business People in a shifting landscape full of opportunities and pitfalls.

My teaching (Yes… “ “ ) will focus on exploring some fundamentals in Entrepreneurship:

  1. Be Brave: Make things happen
  2. Create Frameworks: to enable you to think both big and small
  3. Network (ing): vital
  4. Make decisions (start with a good name)
  5. Do the simple things: really well
  6. Work with good people: Nice (and effective) if you can
  7. …?

This idea of Networking is so important. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who I know that got a job or created a business stir through the old channels – it is all about networking, opportunity recognition, recommendation and serendipity.

What are you doing if you are an entrepreneur whether in the UK or USA or Nigeria? Finding and exploiting that gap in the market before someone else, or developing your idea or version of the business better than others.

Looking at the list it is clear that you make things happen by being in the right place at the right time or finding a way to get there quick. Then once you are there implement your Framework; knowing what you need to about the law, the market and the money to make stuff happen…

The Frameworks are essentially plans that can be adapted whether they are for employing, training, distributing or selling, it is about taking the big picture and not missing out on the detail.

The rest of the list (1-6) speaks for itself but I am reminded of Anthony Alderson from the Pleasance Theatre talking about taking a risk or not feeling in control… well, you are never fully in control, but there is always someone on the end of the phone who can help you. You can’t be an expert in everything but you can find someone who is. So if it’s a good idea, never mind how scary… go for it.

http://www.ideastap.com/ideasmag/all-articles/Anthony-Alderson

In our team at CEDAR there are a number of really interesting Entrepreneurs in Residence and four of them are really really interesting. I will write about them all at length but here are their profiles and briefly why they are interesting case studies;

Natalie Haywood a Scouse dynamo – who runs the fabulous Leaf – teashops and venues. She has confidence in abundance, is a great deal maker and fabulous networker. She does what she says, she will has a vision and knows every detail of her business. Don’t mess!

https://thisisleaf.co.uk/

Neil Muspratt is on the fringes at CEDAR but in the middle of the business world when it comes to Gaming. He spotted an opportunity to “Make things happen” and took it. He brought the site Simply Games.Com about 6 or 7 years ago and invested in all the right places (People, Marketing and Distribution) to create a truly successful independent gaming company. His style is to take the risk but to have 100% trust in who he does business with, where and how. Most of it is incredibly done on a handshake. He also understands international trading and that is where you can adapt to the system and create surplus.

http://www.simplygames.com/

 

Paddy Bishopp of Paddy and Scott’s Coffee started out grounding roast coffee beans to support this own café in Suffolk. They have become one of the fastest growing Cafes and distributors in the UK – why? – they know their customers and  they do the simple things really well but mainly have good coffee – don’t compromise on this sort of thing and you are in a good place.

http://www.paddyandscotts.co.uk/our-story

And Finally…

Jason Graham who runs ICE Bar in Mayfair. He visited an ICE BAR in the frozen North – wanted to run one. Where should be have his bar? Only the best will do – Mayfair. The Council immediately rejected his bid – no more bars needed – so became super resilient and got people who could make it happen – and it has…

http://www.icebarlondon.com/

And the being Creative bit? Isn’t that just a throw away that everyone uses – “we need to be more creative..”

For me I like to think in real terms…Where do ideas come from? How do you stimulate these ideas and then implement them.

This is the topic I will be addressing at Le Change Conference in Kosice entitled “Creativity at work: Jekyll and Hyde?”

http://lechange.eu/hostia/

I wrote the title of the talk in a hurry and have no idea what it really means, so when I have written the speech I will let you know!

Oh and number Seven on the list..? well you have to have seven steps don’t you – it can be whatever you want it to be…

I like “get the best out of yourself and others” but – but let number seven be whatever you want or need it to be to drive you to success…

See now that’s worth going to college to be “taught” by a theatre director…

 

Dependency… me?

1st August 2014

Apologies for gap in Blog.

Bad form.

Won’t happen again!

Promise…

Today I am in Edinburgh at The Fringe Festival preparing our new show Swimming at The Pleasance:

https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/swimming

Just received our first review which is nice:

http://todolist.org.uk/edinburgh-fringe-reviews-2014/

I will quickly conclude on Escalator project in Slovakia…Skip over the extraordinary training day with Barrister’s Clerks in London … (but I will come back to this) and our own festival:  Hotbed …which I will come back to in detail

So, finishing up in Slovakia…

29th June ….

On the final day on the scheme we debate the value of Art and Culture.

Paul Bogen weighs in with that fact that we confuse Art and Culture – the labeling is a mess, its wrong and worse than that that it is damaging…

We have Artists but we don’t have Culturalists???

Art is from Artisan: Maker. It is about doing, making, performing, showing, telling.

Culture is about so many things; values, beliefs, religion, food…

I weigh in… Culture is the stories we choose to tell each other. What we choose to share…

Nods of approval and understanding. It is a clear concept?? I like it.

It reminds me of a famous Art Critic in New York who, when asked how he could define good art (particularly modern art), simply said it was determined by how much time he wanted to spend on it…

Thinking about it, looking at it, and talking about it.

It also reminds me of the Joke about the English City of Norwich.

Two things :

Firstly it applied to Europe to be a capital of culture – it didn’t get very far

So the joke goes…

The last time I experienced culture in Norwich was when I had a yoghurt …

and then there was the time I was in Norwich at the unveiling at the promotional Branding event for the city to enter the competition for city of culture —its tag line from the PR company??

“Britain’s Other City”

http://www.hugtherhino.com/2014/04/norwich-best-city-in-england-11-reasons.html

It is no surprise that Norwich didn’t make it.

Why did Kosice?… because it had a strong campaign that was focused and dynamic and there was a perceived need to connect Slovakia dynamically with the rest of Europe.. and put Kosice on the map.

The discussion on Art and Culture continues…

There are the challenges around how we view Artists in society especially in popular culture:

Warhol and Hurst = we have a problem with them making money through Art.

But Dylan or de Niro, we don’t..?

A contradiction in terms of commercialism and “popularism”.

The discussion moves onto one of funding dependency:

Funding dependent = potential for constant crisis or poor art. It is simple. There are examples all over Europe where bad art is a result of bad funding decisions. If you are dependent, you protect what you have and provide art that gives you guaranteed funding… that satisfies policies not artistic achievement and endeavour. no boundaries are pushed.

So you are not taking risks…

After a hard night of partying and taking risks (Paul Bogen DJ), drinking far too much and trying not to wander off (bears in the hotel grounds).. we put the tables and chairs back in place and head back ‘home’ to Kosice.

Whether it is Art or Culture we have been supporting on this programme doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that we have energised and professionalised some of Kosice’s creative people.

The fact is that they all have stories to tell and hopefully now they can tell them coherently and dynamically. And maybe they will even get funding.. not to be dependent but … to support their art (or culture?!) and engage and challenge…

 

wpid-img-20140720-wa0006.jpg

 

and the final discussion we have on the way back …

The artist who put his own poo in a tin and put it on display then sold it…

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/manzoni-artists-shit-t07667

Art, Culture or just…shit? I wonder if he got fiunded to do this???

 

Any way. We (Menagerie) got funding to go to Edinburgh !!! So, here we go…

 

 

Cultural Cruisers or Artistic Sailboats…?

23rd June 2014 Kosice

So I have made it to Kosice in Slovakia … Wizz air was…

Pink and Purple /Bish and bash /

but…

Took off / landed!

Ok so Kosice airport makes Luton look like the Taj Mahal… but this is the only plane landing so it is all nice and easy.

VIP taxis pick me up (should be done for trading under false pretenses…).

We drive past the ice hockey stadium THE sport in Slovakia. Sponsored by American Steel THE employer in Kosice. There is a joke with Slovakians that the best thing about the steel factory is that the wind blows all the pollution over the border…!

Kosice was the European of Capital of Culture 2013. Sitting on the Eastern border of Slovakia its nearest neighbour is Ukraine…

Slower than its big brother Bratislava it is somewhat sleepy on the surface  but below I feel it has an emerging  self-confidence (from Capital status?).

http://www.kosice2013.sk/en/

I am heading to the cultural centre at Kasárne/Kulturpark– the former military barracks turned into a new space for art.

VERY white – dazzling almost – this is potentially also a white elephant. a major cultural centre built with European money but who is using it now it is no longer  just for the Capital of Culture activities? This challenge of legacy is serious one – which European Capitals of Culture (shouldn’t it be Capitals of Art???) have sustained the momentum of their crown?

Liverpool I believe has been a success with long-term impact, but talking to many people involved in the projects there is a tendency for community regeneration (i.e. long-term deep impact), to be overshadowed by physical development somewhat like a great cruise liner sailing into port surrounded by an unconnected flotilla of community sailboats wary of being crushed if they get too close.

There is a danger that this will happen in Kosice. However there has been some  positive momentum.  The Place Conference

http://www.creativeeconomy.sk/  

has started to address this with support towards the future Creative City (a dynamic which sees community involvement and engagement in cultural and creative activities as a major driving force in urban identity building).  The programme I am teaching on – Escalator – is also contributing to this future shape and sustainability.

 

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The Escalator Programme  is designed to give aspiring and emerging artists and arts/creative organisations a leg up in terms of professionalising their work and building their confidence and robustness.

Looking at audience development, self-identity, management, vision and funding approaches,  it is hoped that during the retreat artists are about to go on (a week in the Tatras Mountains), they will be able to re-frame their operations and seriously develop their organisations.

Ten organisations have been selected for what is the second round of this scheme. These orgainistaions are ones who can potentially move to the next level to help support the sustainability of the community in the Arts. And thereby  maybe fill the Kaserna and other buildings, places and spaces in Kosice with artistic and creative energy and activity?

There is a danger that organisations like these, and  indeed like the behemoth buildings of  Capital of Culture projects,  end up not being robust enough or dynamic enough for sustainable growth.

One of the participants on this course justified her business plan based on the fact that “Art matters”.

My colleague Agata jumped on this like a Tiger  “NO! NO! it is not enough to say that art matters people matter not art – work to engage people not aesthetics or abstract concepts.” ( I already feel too stupid to teach on this programme – I ask stuff like – so, who’s going to come and see your shows then..?).

Today unfortunately the Kasárne/Kulturpark is not so buzzy – in fact as I turn the corner it is totally deserted apart from my three colleagues who will be teaching with me on the course…

Sandy Fitzgerald – former Director of City Arts Centre, Dublin

http://indepartspacestraining2007.wordpress.com/trainers/sandy-fitzgerald/

Paul Bogen – former director of The Junction in Cambridge

http://www.culturefighter.eu/fighter/paul-bogen

And Agata Etmanowicz freelance arts facilitator working with Art_Inkubator in Lodz

http://bit.ly/1raLD90

I have worked with Paul over many years, met Sandy a good few times and am meeting Agata for the first time. All have lots of energy and insight. We will be teaching together in camp for a week – let’s hope we all get on!

I must also include Michal Hladky – one of the driving forces behind The Capital of Culture who is also teaching but is in hiding somewhere…. He is a young architect who got involved in the Capital bid because he failed his final Architectural Thesis.. see I knew failure had benefit.!

Michal is a brilliant visionary, and very much like Paul Bogen, is a wonder with finances and funding. With Michal retaining a role and  interest in the Creative City there is definitely hope for Kosice!

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Artists arrive.

They cover the spectrum from digital media to theatre companies, from festival organisers to Street Artists. They all troop in – they all look unsure… They are all standing in the empty Kasarne Square …like the soldiers that once marched on the square – except these guys have seriously de-mobbed!

Our job is to make sure we give them the tools to fill Kasarne and beyond with artistic life.

Can we give those little sailboats some wind in their sails..?!?

OK – let’s  head off to the mountains of High Tatras and see what we can do…