My year in reflection – in lieu of Christmas cards.

sand-dunes-of-maspalomas-139299546-1Firstly may I wish you, dear reader, the most harmonious, peaceful festive season you could wish for – and a new year which puts a spring in your step, and a spark in your creative spirit.

This will be my last blog of the year, this week we have celebrated Kath’s mum’s 90th birthday in the UK, before she and Kath hotfoot it to Australia to celebrate again with the rest of the siblings. I take a week in some sunshine on Gran Canaria (see pic) and then do a New Year panto crawl seeing friends in Hereford, Worcester, Bristol, Exeter, Winchester and Poole. So here’s a reflection.

For many years now I have not done Christmas Cards, but rather gathered the money I would have spent and made a donation. Usually to the RNLI, but this year it is to RCK, the Refugee Community Kitchen. This is the tiny charity which, since Dec 2015, has delivered over 1/2m tonnes of food and cooked over 570,000 hot meals. If you think you too can help please click through.

Anna, my daughter, and her partner Jonny have been living there for 5 months working in and around the warehouses, kitchens and the camps in Calais, Dunkirk, and now Paris.   Last week they despatched a container-load of food for Syria. This 4 person charitable venture is making every penny, cent, euro, doubloon, tin of tomatoes and bag of rice serve the refugees that need our help. They have no paid staff, just volunteers.  I spent two short sessions there in my half-terms from Mountview, and the work they are doing is essential, heartwarming, life giving, and a wonderful example of community.

So the MA in Creative Producing now exists and we even have 4 Alumi to start our roll of honour. The first course came to an end with the Mosaic Festival of 10 pieces of theatre produced by the first cohort with the MA Directors. A lovely graduation day at the Lion King Lyceum Theatre was had. And then in September the second unit arrived with producers from UK, Thailand, Poland, Iran, Germany, and France. They are an energized and delightful group of 8, and they have already had classes/sessions with 35 professional practitioners across all aspects of theatre and culture making. Now they are off polishing their first term assignments, before once again we explore the final festival project which will, this year, include 16 productions across 5 weeks. 8 in collaboration with the MA Directors, and 8 solo pieces that they will commission/find/produce…and then I hope exploit.

My year began, as it has for many years, with the annual pilgrimage to the open space world of Devoted and Disgruntled with Kath. This year the event marked the start of a new chapter in my life. I called an agenda item on “Clothing Optional Theatre” and began what has been a year long exploration on how we choose to reveal our bodies through life performance and art, and how theatremakers and artists can use their skills to shine a light on aspects of life which are often clothed/hidden.

We have held two one day clothing optional conferences entitled “Revelation” which brought together academics, theatremakers, live artists, people working in spiritual and sacred sexual practice, and naturists. The topics which have been explored are rich and deep and inspiring and sometimes deeply personal. Where next with this strand of my work – I have no idea – maybe I will gain the inspiration I need when I call a follow-up agenda item at this year’s D&D in Bristol.

The Revelation programme has led me to explore much more widely with sessions held at the British Naturist convention, and Quintasensual an LGBT sex positive festival. Each conversation enriches my understanding of the potency of this work, along with the inherent dangers of exploring such powerful material with colleagues. It has been quite a year in this field of work.

Alongside Mountview, I have continued my coaching and CGO Surgery work. It is always a delight to work with an individual or a small company as they explore their life/work balance, their creative business life plans, and the short, medium, and massively long goals and ambitions which they have. I am grateful to the Coaching Academy for giving me additional skills and tools which enhance my own gut / learning in this area over the years. I suspect I will be making available some more time for a growing client base in the new year, after having held off on an international project which has been on/maybe/off/maybe for some months. I have been guilty of, to use the phrase of one colleague, “carrot hoping” – believing that an international producer is actually going to deliver on a project proposal so that I and colleagues can get started and make great theatre. This one seems unlikely for now – partly because of global events outwith the producers’ control.  Maybe santa will arrive in 3-6 months time with a contract – oh dear, more carrot hoping.

I am surrounded by a family who are glorious to be with. Kath as ever supportive of my journey, whilst her own creative world is manic and fulfilling with her corporate training, her Authentic Artist collective, her freelance devising and directing, and her own personal development as she explores her own creative pathway programme. Anna and Jonny remain an inspiration for what they have been doing for the world. My son Michael has had a run of Oppenheimer with the RSC in the West End, and Julie by Zadie Smith at Northern Stage, along with various TV pieces and workshops. His energy has been focused in the last few months of this year on Mariam as she goes through a tremendous journey whilst still finding time to land herself a major international literary agent, finish off some TV writing projects and a play. It feels as though 2017 could be an extraordinary year for them both. Enormous congratulations to Jos on your doctorate, and a joy to meet so many new friends through your network.

And finally I should use this blog to celebrate Angela as she arrives at the wise age of 90 living with us in Suffolk, along with some of my other older mentors and family – Gordon Stratford, coming to terms with life after Jan. My godmother Mary as she is supported by her daughter Wendy through a series of strokes and ongoing dementia.   And it will be lovely to begin my panto-crawl with a visit to Angela Lanyon, my theatre management colleague when we were at Plymouth, who is writing prolifically as ever. Her own trilogy is well worth a read if you ever loved Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Highly recommended – but remember in the world she creates there is no magic, only laws. But those laws might surprise you.

So thank you to all who have read my blogs, bought my book “Your Life in Theatre”,  (via Amazon, the National Theatre, RSC, Foyles, or all good bookshops except Waterstones) downloaded my e-book “The Anatomy of your Creativity”, joined me for a coaching or open space workshop, and given me the strength and joy to carry on into 2017 – which has to be a year of transformation, more joy, more hope, more love and more harmony…please.

(I wrote the above 3-4 days ago. I am now completing it just back from lying in the sunshine (see pic above to see where I was). I am reading Jamie Catto’s new book Insanely Gifted and looking forward to David Whyte‘s Crossing the unknown sea. Two books, along with 50 models for strategic thinking, which are beside me for my week away.  Have a great time with family or in quiet retreat – whichever you are on…see you in 2017)

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