I made my annual pilgrimage to the greatest global trade show on earth last week, and I took with me a shopping list of things I needed to find out to help some British artists, composers, and theatremakers reach out internationally. I recommend the World Travel Market at Excel to all global arts practitioners. Let me explain why…
Gathered under one roof for four days in November (2nd-5th Nov 2015 for your diary) there are senior representatives from 186 countries/regions of the planet plus an array of global brands. On every stand there are senior international movers and shakers – ministers, government officers involved in international business, and travel trade experts with a passion/interest for connections between their country and the UK and other nations. Now most of the 50,000 delegates to the WTM are there to discuss hotels, rainforests, beach destinations, and the latest museum or gastronomic delight.
As we know there is more to any country than its tourist outer skin. Behind every kilt dressed Scottish Tourist Board representative selling the delights of Loch Lomand, there is a mighty knowledgeable representative who knows about the festivals and contemporary culture of Scotland. They may not be an expert on new playwriting or contemporary artists – but they will know someone who is. The same is true of the representatives from Cuba, Malaysia, Mozambique, Brazil, Portugal, Tanzania all of whom I met in 90 minutes and gained myself new friends.
I only hit a brick wall when I went to the Canada stand, which surprised me. When I asked whether someone could help me find out more about regional theatres and networks of community theatre across Canada, I got my first negative face, and downright no. Shame. My theory that everyone on a travel trade stand wants to help was disproved there. But I had so many other positive conversations. I met a professional Brazilian actress who is going to be a great help. Over the years at the event I have met middle eastern poet laureates, globally respected traditional and contemporary composers, and managers of cultural centres. These are the people who are representing their country with passion and skill. Canada was having an off moment I guess.
So my tips for anyone wanting to make connections in one of 180+ countries across the planet – mark off the 5th Nov 2015 (last day, quieter and representatives have more time to talk), think carefully what you would like to learn about from each nation, take a minimum of half a day, prepare to walk miles, wear comfortable shoes, be prepared to deal with politeness in many different cultural ways. Think carefully how to adapt your request, mindful, that the random person you meet may themselves know nothing about contemporary dance (or whatever your world) themselves. Present and receive business cards, and then make personal contact after the show.
Over the years I have built up some lovely names/contacts to use when needed. Happy to share what I know. Now…time to write to my new contacts.