It’s time for me to bugger off and let someone else have a go at running this fantastic, optimistic and creative organisation.
I’m heading off to grow children and vegetables. Until they start school. (The children.)
I have a fantasy that I will write something about creativity & change in quiet moments. My amazing partner seems to be able to look after children and achieve more incredible things at the same time.
In reality, I expect to be total shit at this. I suspect writing something will always come second to cyclical, fetishistic tidying, being knackered and watching box-sets I have missed over last 15 years.
Anticipating this upcoming domestic/professional fail, over the remaining 7 months of working in Battersea, I will share bits of my learning as artistic director – the whole thing has been a bit of a scratch!
It’s an odd job as artistic director, especially when you’re not an artist. I have spent lots of time (most of the time) worrying about the expectations other people have of me – or experiencing their projections of my identity through the job title.
Gradually, I have built confidence to just be myself in the job.
So in an effort to demystify the artistic director role – and the chief executive role – and pass stuff forward to a younger generation of better artistic directors in Battersea and beyond – I thought I’d try and pass some things on.
So – thing one – is an easy one to start with today.
Don’t take credit for things you didn’t actually do.
I’m starting with this one today – because it’s easy when artistic directors leave organisations for the Board of those organisations – and even the staff – to refer to the achievements of the artistic director.
The reality is that other staff did all this stuff. Let alone the artists or partners or members of the community or volunteers (like trustees) who actually created and made stuff happen.
Today, for example, on BAC’s statement about searching for a new AD, there is a bunch of stuff that other people have led.
I thought, for the record, I would make a note of who actually did all that stuff – to make the point – see bottom of this blog.
And of course the list I have put together below is not even a real representation of all the artists, freelancers, theatre technicians, marketeers, account managers, duty managers etc. who actually made all this stuff happen.
I think creativity thrives on accountability rather than hierarchy.
Everyone contributes stuff from their perspective – ideas emerge and get stronger because people see things and do things from their perspective.
One of the things I think we need to get much better at – in cultural organisations – is to spend less time talking about the artistic director as if they are the person who make things happen.
It’s just not real.
It makes the artistic director feel weird. And it’s just not true.
An artistic director’s job is to help other people make things happen.
I think if we recognised the creativity of the collective – rather than over-egging the contribution of one leader – then our organisations might achieve a lot more.
When an organisation has a big ego, it’s also generally less good at collaborating.
I say this as someone who knows that when my ego has got in the way, over the past decade or so, then everything fucks up.
When we recognise that leadership comes from every person – not from a small collection of people – we’re likely to create more productive cultural organisations.
Thing two to follow in coming weeks…
– agreement of a 125 year lease on Battersea’s former Town Hall – Nick Starr our previous Chair led this negotiation with Eddie Lister at the council, who had faith, and they cracked this one together working with David Micklem and Rosie Hunter and loads of people from the Battersea and Council teams to prepare the lease
– the restoration of the building in partnership with Haworth Tompkins – obviously Steve Tompkins has created lots of the design, but so has Toby Johnson, Joanna Sutherland, Imogen Long, Martin Lydon and lots of other members of the Haworth Tompkins team, and from the Battersea team there have been so many key who have developed and delivered ideas including Greg Piggot, Richard Couldrey, Tref Davies, Scott MacColl, Georgina Parker, Thea Jones, loads more staff, Punchdrunk, Gary Campbell and Jeannine Inglis-Hall, Kirsty Harris, and literally hundreds of other artists who have transformed the building, space by space
– a £26mill investment – this money has been raised by people with good ideas like Tim Burley, Kane Moore, Celine Gagnon, Jo Hunter, Sarah Golding, with Rebecca Holt leading BAC’s relationship with Aviva with incredible skill and savvy, David Baker from Aviva ensuring we were able to get a payout to restore the Grand Hall and Lower Hall, and members of our Board like Bruce Thompson and a very skilled group of practitioners guiding us through, along with trustees who have helped raise more funds
– commissioning/co-producing with artists – this one refers to lots of artists who have been successful out of BAC – it’s worth noting how these artists were invited to BAC and worked with at BAC – such as 1927 who Lynette Moran first noticed in an Apples and Snakes night and then Shelley Hastings closely with for a number of years; Nic Green – Shelley Hastings and Richard Dufty; Taylor Mac – Shelley Hastings; Punchdrunk – Laura McDermott, now at Attenborough Centre, produced Masque of Red Death; Polarbear –Richard Dufty, Sarah Golding and Rosie Scudder; Kate Tempest – Sophie Bradey produced Brand New Ancients; Inua Ellams – Richard Dufty and of course before she left to set-up Fuel, Kate McGrath; Paper Cinema – Liz Moreton, Richard Dufty and Rosie Scudder; Little Bulb – Liz Moreton and Richard Dufty; Kneehigh – Shelley Hastings and Sophie Bradey; Dead Centre and Chris Thorpe/Rachel Chavkin – Shelley Hastings; Amy Leon and Bryony Kimmings – Bethany Haynes; Touretteshero – Sophie Bradey introduced them to BAC and worked with them before she became a freelance producer.
– merger with Wandsworth Museum and the creation of the new BAC Moving Museum with new national programmes such as Creative Museums – this was led by Rebecca Holt, Sarah Golding and Bethany Haynes, including Sue Walker who worked at Wandsworth Museum and Michelle Welbourn, and lots of trustees for both organisations, like Michael Day, our chair, working out how to make it work, and supported by Lucy Parker
– the Scratch Hub as a home for the creative industries – led by Liz Moreton, designed and created Gary Campbell and Jeannine Inglis-Hall, now led by Maddie Wilson and her team
– Create Course – created by Maddie Wilson, Lara Taylor, Marina Sacco and Meg Peterson
– Agents of Creative Change – created by Lara Taylor, Liz Moreton and Meg Peterson
– Local Roots programme – led by Miriam Sherwood, Maddie Wilson and Liz Moreton
– Homegrown – been led by Liz Moreton, with amazing team members and freelancers like Lara Taylor, Fiona Sowole, Bethany Haynes and Tobi Kyeremateng
– BAC Beatbox Academy – whose director is Conrad Murray and who have been supported by Liz Moreton, Lara Taylor, Fiona Sowole
– The Agency – which has been led by Liz Moreton, Roisin Feeny, Catherine Nicholson
– Family Saturdays – which have been led by Sophie Bradey, Reena Kalsi, Sarah Golding and many others
– The Bee’s Knees – which has been hosted by Elaine Jordan, and led by Sarah Golding, and Sophie Bradey, Jessie Wylde and Leanda Linton
– Collaborative Touring Network – has been led by Katie Roberts, Katie Duffy, Rosie Scudder, Katie Croft, Nassy Konan and Christie Hill and all the partners around the country
– A Nation’s Theatre with the Guardian – which was led by Maddie Wilson and Richard Dufty and lots of members of the wider team especially Layla El-Deeb
– Co-Creating Change network – which has been led by Liz Moreton, working with Maddie Wilson and Miriam Sherwood
– the Up Next project with Bush Theatre and Artistic Directors of the Future which has been shaped and led by Reena Kalsi, Rebecca Holt, Rosie Scudder, Lara Taylor and Fiona Sowole.
– the Relaxed Venue project a partnership with Touretteshero which has been led and supported by Shelley Hastings, Michelle Welbourn, Ralph Thompson and others
-The establishment of an Artists Sounding Board representing the interests of artists in the governance of BAC – Richard Dufty, Rosie Spiegelhalter and Charlotte Turton
– One-on-One festivals – which have been curated by Richard Dufty, Bethany Haynes with lots of members of the producing team
– The Good Neighbour – which was led by Sarah Golding and Bethany Haynes and Richard Dufty
– London Stories festivals – led by Richard Dufty with the help of Ralph Thompson
– growing the organisation’s commercial income streams – which have been led by Andrew Bishop, Tanith Lindon and Rebecca Holt and many others
– reorganising its organisational structure to create a less hierarchical and more diverse model of project working – this idea was led by Sarah Preece, now Exec Director at Mountview, who had the idea, scratched it and saw it through, and continues, championed by Rebecca Holt the staffing team and Joanne Irvine – and working to renew how we communicate with the world and creating a cohesive visual language, our website and branding – have been led by Emma Power, Katie Elston, Layla El-Deeb and lots of team members, and Jake Tilson and many other artists and makers
..and as I said earlier – all the teams that that lead, every day, on delivering all the aspects of our programme, too many to mention individually here –our BO, Front of House , Welcome, production and technical teams, events, catering and volunteers.