Monday, 15 June 2009

What's the best way through a time of crisis?

I spent a fascinating two days last week in Wexford in Ireland, at the conference of the Theatre Forum Ireland. The theme was 'The Way Through', and I was asked to talk about the creative uses of crisis. As well as drawing attention to the thinking around resilience I've talked about previously here - and in particular the habits of resilient organisations - I talked about how crisis is often defined as something which disturbs equilibrium (psychological or business, for instance) because it can't be responded to using one's usual methods or approaches or skills. As such it is precisely the thing that allows us to grow, or to (in the jargon) 'build capacity'. It relates to the ways things move from the 'release' or creative destruction phase to 'reorganisation'. When we realise our usual methods of control are no longer sufficient for the world (if they ever were), we are forced to find new and better ways. But before we get to reimagining, we have to properly accept the limits of our current methods.

The 250 theatre and dance professionals from all over Ireland seemed to be at precisely that point, because the Celtic Tiger economy appears to have gone 'pop!' very messily indeed. Interestingly, the Arts Council of Ireland also seemed to be at a point of reimagining how best to support theatre, given the challenges. These seemed huge, but there was, by the end of the two days, a real appetite to work together. It was fascinating for me to observe the sector and the Arts Council relationship at one remove, for once - the different perceptions and the difficulty of communication and partnership. It was also nice not to have to feel personally responsible every time I heard 'the Arts Council' being criticised! (That wasn't all the time, I hasten to add, and there was a general understanding of the necessity of the difficult decisions that Arts Council had to take, and an acknowledgement the Council was really making an effort to work with the sector.)

It was my second conference speech in a week, and interesting that the issues around young leaders I wrote about after the ENYAN conference were very apparent. One of the biggest dilemmas facing the Arts Council of Ireland, and the sector, is how to maintain some stability for the key institutions and companies, whilst also bringing on new talent. Clearly some of the 'emerging' artists, most in their 30s, felt more needed to be done to assist them.

There were lots of other thoughts stimulated by a hugely enjoyable two days, so thanks to curator Belinda McKeown and Tania and Irma at Theatre Forum Ireland for the invitation, and to people for making me welcome. I may return to some of those thoughts, once I've caught up with myself.

1 comment:

Annette Clancy said...

Mark - it was a pleasure to meet and talk with you in Wexford - hope we can catch up again sometime!