Wednesday, 7 April 2010

360° Review

Here's the piece I would 'end on'. Although I've mentioned it, and linked to it, I've spared you my poems here, but this is one I wrote for my leaving do, and then forgot, in the emotion of the moment, to read. Besides we'd already had a new Shakespeare poem that night. (Tom Shakespeare, that is, my chair at ACE amongst many other things.) It was probably for the best, that night, but I shared it afterwards with the team in the North East office, and it seemed as as good a way to go quiet here as any.

360° Review

The angles of the north are sharp as words

bitten in the wind, ballasted by bricks

so they can’t float over Pennines or Borders

to the uber-North as it plays its trump card,

devolution. My devotion is fast,

true as the compass of the A19,

A1 , or East Coast Main Line, the magnet’s pull

towards home or good work, twin poles that switch

and twitch like dancers in cold rehearsals.

Even restless melodies can settle

for equilibrium, and those have been mine,

home, work, twin arts of making worlds together.

But winds change, pick my dump weight up and heave.

Release is good, from on high landscapes shift,

graceful application turned to growth, sun

staccato off roofs and extractor fans,

curves and corners of new tunes and stages

rising like time-lapsed dough giddy with yeast.

There’s a toolbox down there, plenty to make

us tight with invention, rapt in creation.

There is no stopping us, no hopes gone south

now, no mothballing but of metaphors

of our doubt. We are done with all that,

have set out on fresh sweaty marathons,

mantras muttered against cynicism’s

insufficient priorities, competing

demands for fresh beats of northern hearts.

The sun sets in the west, beyond Barrow.

Yes, we are brothers and sisters from sea to sea:

our vowels as flat as the plains of class.

I have walked slowly to’t Foot Of Our Stairs,

a long march of a ten year trek but that’s

where I’m bound now, working out what I’ve done.

What we’ve done, is all I can see or say to end.

More is needed than these puzzled lines, more due

to others than this circular ‘thank you’.

But thank you will have to do.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Say goodbye wave hello

Well, I did warn you March might be quiet on here... but I'm back. Kind of.

It's a bit of a shame, really, as in many ways I wanted to ramp up activity here, but it seems the work ethic got in the way during my last few weeks at the Arts Council. However, I was trying to do a few too many things at once to eke out the time and energy to do justice to the subjects that arose here. You may, therefore, never hear about the 'Cafe Culturel' discussion I took part in, with Kate Fox, in which I read poems by Zbigniew Herbert and Czeslaw Milosz and a women in the audience sang us a song after telling us about her job interview, or about what I learnt about arts leadership on the first part of a coaching course, about my struggles turning the theories of resilience into something like plain English or my writing the mother of all leaving poems for 14 colleagues leaving the Arts Council, or the fantastic and art-full week my wife and I have just had in New York.

Those of us who have departed as a result of the recent restructure - which stems back to the last Government Spending Review and will see an extra £6.5M for Regularly Funded Organisations, with the Arts Council having around 25% less staff - are now all off to pastures new. In my case that's my own business, Thinking Practice. The name combines the two elements I believe the arts and culture sector need to integrate even better - more consciously perhaps - than now, and because I hope other people will become involved over time.

The aim is to help the arts and cultural sectors, and maybe the broader third sector, create a fairer and more beautiful world, by helping them to increase their own impact and build their resilience through creative approaches that combine thinking (eg analysis and strategy) with practice (eg doing, learning, coaching). You can read about it on a beta site here.

Lots of people have asked whether I'll carry on blogging when I leave the Arts Council. The short answer is yes, although obviously it's a quite different context. I started Arts Counselling because it seemed the perfect form to share enthusiasms and ideas, whilst demonstrating that not everyone who works for the Arts Council is a faceless bureaucrat. (There are a total of 27 of those according to the most recent HR stats, apparently.) Sadly my Executive Board colleagues have been terribly slow in following my example, not for the first time either, though once someone shows them the on switch for the blogosphere, who knows? Seriously, I'm told Andrew Nairne's twittering is cult following amongst some, and there are more and more ACE-types on there, so things/people are opening up. If you want to petition Alan Davey to take up the Arts Counselling baton his email is publicly available, and I for one think he'd do a great blog.

Opinion has been split on whether I should keep the Arts Counselling name for future blogging. It is - obviously - a brilliant name, but given its origins can't help but relate to my now former employer. I'm incredibly proud of that organisation and my time there, and will be using what I learnt for the rest of my career, but it feels time to let go of that association for my writing. Later this week then, I will start blogging on Thinking Practice. You can expect the same mixture of ideas, thoughts, links, descriptions of experiences, questions and recommendations. You'll also be able to subscribe by email as many people do to Arts Counselling. If you are currently a subscriber you can subscribe to Thinking Practice by clicking here. Please do, I'll be disappointed, and my ego shattered, if too many of you were just watching out of funder-curiosity rather than hanging on my every word.

There's one more post I think it appropriate to put here, then this site will be dormant but available, as I think there's some useful stuff here. I'll find a way of archiving some of the more durable posts on the Thinking Practice site. Thanks for reading, and thanks for all the feedback and thoughts. Remember: it's time for some Thinking Practice.