Creativity at a time of discord

Yesterday I had the joy of leading a session with 15 creative beings who had chosen to explore the world of creative producing with EPAD. The Edinburgh Performing Artist Development network if a wonderful service provider for independent creatives who are working in Edinburgh which offers mentoring, knowledge, workshops, and opportunities for solo travellers to work together.  In a world where so many of us are sitting in a small room alone with our laptops seeking to make art and creative things happen, it can be very lonely. We can forget to ask for help. We can forget there is anyone else out there who has (or is) suffering the same challenges as us. We can get isolated and that is a time when the inevitable rejections, bounced emails, failed grant applications can hurt most. It is difficult always to keep your own buoyancy tanks full.  EPAD is the creation of a most experienced Edinburgh creative producer and strategist, Lucy Mason.  It is special and necessary.

Yesterday I met people making magic, devised theatre, storytelling, music, community action work, plays and cabaret. They were a multiculturally diverse group of Edinburgh theatremakers. We explored what it is to be a producer, what it is to work with a producer, how to deal with the challenges of being a self-producer, and how to set a long term strategy to stop producing and find the ideal producing partner. We touched on the need to find more producers and people who would love to develop this side of their creativity. We talked about training, and learning by your own mistakes, responsible delegation, and we ran out of time. I could have explored this whole area with those present for many more hours than the 3 we had available.  Thank you to all of them for inspiring me.

It is a time of enormous challenges to see a rosy glow on the horizon of politics, community cohesion, education systems, funding outwith the amazing support of Creative Scotland which is itself hard fought for, and the environment.  I feel that the best any of us can do at the moment is to keep spreading joy, keep making work, and keep trying to make necessary impacts through theatre and creativity on the lives of one, two, maybe 30 or a 100 people. I  can’t see anything but clouds on the horizon (or rather overhead) in terms of our political and economic dislocation from Europe. But I am lucky enough to sit in Blackness and look out over a beach as the tide comes in again, and the curlews fly overhead, the geese gather, and the rooks find their mates for the Spring, and build their nests. It is a great place to be sitting in a tiny room alone with my laptop – provided I know there are networks like EPAD out there for me and others.

Tomorrow I will be at the University of the West of Scotland working with first years on their early career planning as they study theatre, film and performance. I am reminded of the words of my Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds colleague, Lynn Whitehead, on working with young people “Never underestimate how little they know.”  Starting to work with them now, when they have 2-3 years before they seek auditions or make their own theatre companies and projects, we have time to give them some context and help make them aware of the, potential, loneliness of the long distance runner on the journey they will make to the stage or creative outlet.

They will have an increasingly tough world around them, and again they need to know that they are needed to make small differences to people’s lives.    If you want to understand some of the challenges they may face, and those soon to be born, then sit somewhere quiet with a strong cup/drink of something and read Catherine Ingram’s extraordinary essay “Facing Extinction”     which offers 5 key recommendations to us all as we continue to be creative in the turmoil of the world: a) Find your community – EPAD is just one of those, b) Find your calm, c) Pace your intake of climate news – and other dark visions of the future,  d) Be of service – and that is something that all artists seek to be, so we are in a strong place, e) Be grateful – live for the moment and take time to enjoy what we have now.

Thank you  – and may we all have sufficient passions for the things we believe in and the creativity we wish to manifest into the world, that we can get up, get to our laptops, get to our rehearsal spaces, get to our networks and our coffee shops, get to our classrooms and workshops, and know there are others out there who need what we offer, and want to share our creative journeys. Just remember to enjoy each sunrise and take time to be calmly grateful.

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