Birthing New Work

babiesThere’s an immense fragility in making work, for many artists. For others it may appear impossible, and they want to wait for someone to invite them in so they can perform or strut their stuff.   My sense is that, nowadays, there is an advantage for any creative who is willing to contemplate birthing their own work.

At my occasional CGO Gathering/shindig I laid out a blank sheet of paper and encouraged people to write down “What I Need” or “What I Offer”. This gentle method of making connections between people who could help each other has proved very powerful in the past.   It is interesting for me to reflect back this morning on what people wrote. The more specific, and the more positive, the easier it is for someone else to try and help. The arts are a collaborative business, and we need to understand who or what we need on our side to make stuff happen.

One person wrote “A big fucking break”. Another sought a single investor for a very new named film. The first call out to the universe seemed to come from a sense of frustration, the second from a place of very specific consideration. The list of offers continued with singing & voice training, wine & breadmaking, saxophone, composition, the patience of a saint, and great hugs. Across beer and coffee people met and made creative connections – I overheard a scratch jazz combo being created, and the sharing of script dramaturgy contacts.

One person asked me at the weekend – “What’s the path to the West End?”. My answer is that there isn’t one, that’s in the “big fucking break” territory. The more useful path is from your idea towards a presentation in front of a paying audience with the best possible performers involved. That is usually quite a long path, but it is a path to “success”. If you focus on west-end land, you may find it tough even to start.

For some people Birthing New Work needs to be extremely private and careful.   At our monthly Asylum one artist just showed 3 minutes of movement to one track of music explaining that they had the tiniest, tiny idea for a possible new show. They just needed the space to be witnessed, and to get feedback without explaining what the show might be.   4 other artists watched and fed back comments without knowing any context. It is for the artist to hear what they find useful and discard unconnecting comments. Nancy Kline’s “Time to Think” is always an inspiring book to help understand how to offer & hear feedback.

On Monday I did three CGO Surgeries in my National Theatre office(!). Each explored Birthing New Work. The first exploring whether this artist had the confidence to take a room and invite a few colleagues in so that they could play with ideas. I hope they will – there were some rich ideas in our conversation. The next from someone who has their eye on a big big prize. They knew exactly what they want the world to see them as, but they are realistic enough to know that there are tiny steps to take before any lucky break, or any bigger steps happen.   My third was beautifully balanced in the middle, they are making work and now need to connect with the right people to make it happen. Their question of confidence comes down to “why on earth would x want to talk with me about my work.?” X, in this case, being someone who has dedicated themselves to offering workshops and support for new work. Why would they be interested in “me” and “my work”?. Because we are all looking to see exciting work.

Some people are great with tiny babies; others don’t want to get involved with the nurture until they are robust enough to play; others prefer to connect with young talent once its character is coming through, and some really only want to be involved with other adults.   If you are birthing new work just remember that there are people out there who are really good with tiny babies – but not everyone.

I encourage any creative artist (even if you are tentative about calling yourself by that term) to find a space and create, find collaborators with whom to play, ask around to find the right people who have the ‘nurture gene’ for tiny babies, and protect your tiny tiny ideas until you are confident to tell your friends and colleagues that you are gestating a new project.

I look forward to more CGO Surgeries in Edinburgh in two weeks, and an open discussion with creative who are showing their young charges to a Fringe audience and wondering what their next steps might be.   Then I start at Mountview working with 6 nurturing parents – the creative producers of the future.

Have a great summer






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