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We Are All Artists : Free Art Project Second Anniversary

Start something. Keep going. Be Curious.

The next free art drop is about to hit the streets. So what? This one feels a little special to me, as it marks the second anniversary of the We Are All Artists free art project. 104 consecutive weeks of making and hiding art, most of it in and around Wallington and Carshalton, with occasional trips further afield. There are 151 pieces of my work in the collection so far, plus an additional 7 made by other people.

I’ve been working on this second anniversary piece all week, and it’s now finished. Here are some photos of the work in progress.

This is the biggest piece I’ve made for the project so far, a 40cm x 80cm canvas showing a koi, a Japanese symbol of good fortune. It might prove a little tricky to hide, but I’m looking forward to finding a super sneaky place to leave it.

Thank you to everyone who has supported and taken part in the project so far. It grows into itself, and beyond too. When I look back at my work over the past 24 months I can’t imagine being without this experiment, it currently informs so much of what I do.

In case you are interested, the symbols in the lower left corner are my attempt at Chinese calligraphy. They signify ‘developing, becoming different.’

Footnote

I thought you might like to see a photo of where I eventually hid the art (long story short a mix of bad weather meant I tried and failed to hide this piece on two previous occasions – this was third time lucky).

The 100 Year Life

I’m live blogging from the 2018 ChangeBoard future talent conference. Emma Birchall spoke about the 100 year life. I found this session fascinating.

Emma’s Nana is 1 of 14 kids, there are 74 grandkids – that’s Nana’s secret to a long and happy life.

Education/ Workforce / Retirement. A 3 stage life. Organisations could plan and understand around this. Similar cohorts, lock step with peers.

As life expectancy increases – those extra years are added to the retirement phase of life. Someone starting work at 20 working to 60, living to 100 is balancing work and retirement 1 to 1

When Germany introduced a pension for 70 – average age expectancy was 48.

The 3 stage life model is breaking, the stages will blur and blend.

We manage tangible assets like homes, savings, Emma suggests we apply same rigour to intangible assets – productivity, vitality, change/transformation.

Productivity – skills/professions change – how can we anticipate what will be needed? Emma highlighted an absence of development after school, unless you’re senior management, you might get some investment in you then. What signals do we send to each other around learning and development? Look at your own diary, have you made any time for learning? Peer review – support. [During another subsequent talk the UK was referred to as one of the countries in the EU with the lowest investment in personal development per head].

Vitality – more than ‘have I done my mindfulness app this evening?’ Coping with burnout. Rest and recuperation – should we take more sabbaticals? Rethink the sequencing and pacing of working life. Peer network – friends and family. Younger people in particular leave because friendships are hard to maintain. Unpredictable long hours also affect this.

Transformation – historically we move into work and out again – broadly with people our own age. This is changing a lot, we need to get better at dealing with this change, can we reinvent ourselves? Know thyself, what drives you? As someone in his 50s moving more intentionally into the arts, this challenge resonates with me, and excites me too. A diverse network helps, your peers and friends less likely to assist here, they’re too similar to you.

Lenny Henry

Just before lunch, Lenny Henry spoke at the ChangeBoard future talent event. He brought the house down with a mixture of humour and passion, the like of which I’ve rarely seen and heard at a conference. Here are just a few snippets, notes I captured in between the laughter and the tears…

Lenny’s family came to the UK expecting streets paved with gold. What they got was factories, soot, and racial abuse. Lenny recalls his Mum being followed down the street while someone asked where her tail was.

During school, Lenny got into a daily fight with another kid named David Price. Eventually Lenny made a joke of it – something about instead of rolling around on the floor maybe we should just go out on a date – get married..? People laughed, the situation diffused, the fights stopped. There were several times in the talk where the power of humour was highlighted.

Lenny failed his 11+ exams. When he left school, took a factory job – driven to practice and rehearse his comedy to avoid the boredom repetition and smell and whine of machinery.

A winning appearance on New Faces brought Lenny to wider public attention, and he spoke about subsequently going go the BBC and seeing almost no other black faces.

Whilst on tour with Cannon and Ball, Lenny returned to further education, revising for O levels, studying world war poetry. Lenny found further education transformational. He felt fortunate that he could afford it, and now despairs for kids and the debts they incur to learn.

Can I do it? Play Othello? Yes – said the director, you can. Hard work produced a great performance and Lenny won the Evening Standard Outstanding Newcomer acting award….at the age of 50. The power of a yes.

Lenny called out the lack of racial diversity in the room. He told us of recent times in the media, where figures show that for every BAME person who lost their job, two white people were employed. This is partly why Lenny Henry continues his campaigning in the media for greater diversity, inclusion, and representation.

Diversity in the boardrooms – that’s where change starts.

If you think you can’t change it yourself? Apply pressure to those who can.

It’s easy to spot the places and people taking diversity, inclusion, and representation more seriously. They put real jobs, and money behind it!