Food For Thought, Tuesday 2nd September 2014

Written by Maddie Wilson 

Maddie is the Assistant to the Artistic Director’s Office at Battersea Arts Centre. She co-ordinates diaries, meetings and projects, and follows the cat around the building, trying to make it like her.
Food for Thought, Tuesday 2nd September 2014
Following our initial scratch in June, the second Food for Thought scratch session took place in the Battersea Arts Centre Waiting Room last Tuesday, with all the pomp and circumstance that two huge trays of lasagne can bring.

We want to talk about creativity, and the way that arts centres can support and promote it, with anybody else who wants to talk about it too. So we’ve been inviting people round for dinner and a chat.

2nd September 2014 – the facts:

• In attendance were:
Gerard Darby, researcher and trainer on creative thinking
Jack Haynes, education outreach officer and arts enthusiast
Claire Mansfield, Researcher and Arts Practitioner
David Miller, theatregoer
Toby Peach, theatre maker
Veronica Simpson, design and visual arts writer, and environmental psychologist
Rosie Slay, Co-Director at 47/49
Katie Taylor, Croydon Fun Palace Maker

• The conversation was chaired by David Jubb, BAC

• Katie Elston and Maddie Wilson also attended from BAC

• Some early arrivals had fun on our Theatre Jukebox – an interactive storytelling installation about the history of our building – before the discussion started

• The conversation ran from 7.10pm to 8.30pm

• Everybody ate enough lasagne, salad and chips to cancel out almost all meals for the rest of the week

• And there was still enough food left over for some quick-moving front of house staff to get in on the action once the event was finished
The topics we discussed included:
Playtime and getting things wrong
Having the time and space to be playful sometimes feels like a luxury that adults can’t afford, but the idea of play is essential for creativity.

• Play is an environment in which we don’t worry about things being done right or wrong, or making things that are good or bad. In order to be creative, a fear of failure needs to be replaced with the understanding that anything you do will be accepted. Failure is okay. You can just keep trying.
• Children’s education should leave space for them to understand that failure isn’t the end of the world, and that the creative process is valuable in itself, even if – for example – they produce a painting in an art lesson that they don’t think is ‘good’. And what criteria are they judging with anyway?
• An example of removing the fear of failure was somebody’s regular office meeting which had ‘Points of guilt’ as a standing agenda item: a chance for everybody to admit to a task they hadn’t completed. Then the whole team worked together to solve the problems that had got in the way.
Creativity in the workplace
We talked a lot about creativity in education at the last session, and it came up this time round as well. But if there is a general expectation that children and young people should have access to creative opportunities, and that there should be places that they can go to play creatively, where is the same provision for adults? What should grown-ups do if they need an opportunity to play?

• People hear over and over again that there is no time, budget or space for creativity at work. But creativity should be an everyday thing, and it doesn’t necessarily mean being artistic, or stop you from also being efficient. Businesses send people on away days to have a chance to think creatively – but shouldn’t they be working to integrate this into general practice instead?
• Not being in a creative profession doesn’t mean not leading a creative life. Problem-solving is creative. Bringing up children is creative. Being good at flirting is creative: you create something where before you flirted there was nothing.
• Adults are often more inhibited than children, and are more likely to moderate their behaviour depending on the people around them. People shouldn’t worry about being judged for suggesting creative solutions.
Artistic hierarchies

• There is a perception of hierarchy in some areas of the arts which is problematic. In theatre, and especially in London, there is often a sense of high art vs low art, professional vs participatory, with outreach and community work in many theatres playing second fiddle to professional productions in the same venue.
• We’ve never had a cultural revolution in the UK – perhaps this is why we still find this divide in so many places.
• It’s important to work towards putting all experiences of art on equal footing. This will help more people feel like art, culture and creativity are areas they can actively get involved in.
Thanks again to everybody who joined us for this session and contributed their ideas. Please do comment below if you were there (or if you weren’t). How can we make sure we all have the time and space to play? How do you think creativity should be recognised and used in workplaces that might not see themselves as creative at the moment? How can we continue to break down artistic hierarchies – and do you have any good examples of this being done?

We’re currently working out the best way to continue the Food for Thought programme in the future, so that we can build on the great conversations we’ve had so far and involve as many people as possible. If you’d like to join the Food for Thought interest list to find out more and sign up for events coming soon, drop me an email on

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