Blog

How To Fit Four Years of Experience Into One Minute

Dealing with self-inflicted complexity

Opportunity

I recently had the pleasure of being included in a team of people pitching for the 2023 London Borough of Culture award. Sutton, the borough I’ve lived in for most of my life, has been shortlisted for the award, and the council chose to involve two members of the community in the pitch. I am fortunate to be one of them.

Our instructions were simple. Deliver a ten-minute presentation to a panel of experts, then engage in a detailed question and answer session. At a previous planning meeting, we agreed I would take up to 60 seconds to illustrate the excellent grass roots arts and cultural scene in our borough. To support my words, I asked for a visual backdrop, a montage showing people in our community engaging with the arts and cultural scene, and then I got to work.

Challenge

As a community artist and executive committee member of Arts Network Sutton – I am in a fortunate position to have good visibility of much of the excellent arts and cultural work being carried out across our borough, but as I soon realised – this was as much a curse as a blessing. I started doodling and making notes, and it quickly became clear I could easily take up the whole session enthusing about the many good things happening locally. I got a bit stressed by the challenge I faced, ‘How can I do justice to all this good stuff in just 60 seconds?’

Spark

I’ve recently reacquainted myself with my Stop Doing Dumb Things cards – a device I created back in 2013 to help people like me and you when we get stuck in our work. I shuffled the deck and pulled a couple of cards. One of them read:

‘How much of your complexity is self-inflicted? Simplify Relentlessly.’ 

Change

That first phrase took me back several years to an unconference I facilitated at Target Field, Minnesota. I was working with Thomson Reuters global project management team at the time, and we got together to explore that particular community’s wants and needs, and to make cocreated plans for the future. Two people gave short presentations at the start of the event.

Dave St Peter – President of the Minnesota Twins, talked about the importance of family, both in relation to the team’s fans, and a sense of togetherness among the non-playing and playing staff in the Twins organisation. This was a useful spark for some of the community conversations we subsequently had.

Rick King, a senior executive at Thomson Reuters also spoke, and it was he who uttered that phrase, ‘How much of your complexity is self-inflicted’, during his talk. Bearing in mind Rick was addressing around 200 project managers, this particular line was a ‘pin drop’ moment at the time, and to this day I’ve never forgotten his words. Thank you Rick.

Practice

Fast forward to 2020 and I got back to work on the pitch – writing, cutting, focusing, repeat. I chose to speak about my experience of Arts Network Sutton, as discovering them back in 2016 was a pivotal moment in my artistic adventures. My job was to set the scene of a local grass roots arts scene, doing good things, and keen to do much more with the support of the award. My family were invaluable in making time for me to rehearse in front of an audience, and after a great deal of hard work – I simplified my message while keeping it effective, and timely. I used 58 of my allocated 60 seconds, so the rest of the team got 2 bonus seconds returned to them!   

Deliver

On the day we were given space and time to rehearse and talk things through. That was useful – and we quickly got to a place of readiness, without going over the top. With our presentation delivered, we got stuck into an intense question and answer session and worked well as a team, fielding questions, supporting and contributing where relevant. Our previous work together gave us the ability to respond dynamically, knowing where specific strengths lay in the team. The adjudication panel were friendly and tough – but in a way that conveyed genuine interest and a desire to hear how we could be, at our very best.

Be Thankful

I felt exhausted once our work was done – and we slowly drifted our separate ways, happy that we’d worked well together. Life carries on, until we meet again at City Hall on Tuesday 11th February to find out more. I am grateful to be included in this project, and to have had the opportunity to simplify relentlessly.

Not For Me, Not For You, But For Us

A review of the London LnDcowork visit to ScratchHub, a beautiful coworking venue in Battersea

Along with Gill Martin and Gaëlle Watson, I am one of three London LnDCowork hosts , and we are always looking for interesting new places to introduce to our network. Recently, we were fortunate to be given an introduction to ScratchHub, the coworking space at Battersea Arts Centre.

Battersea? Who coworks in Battersea!? Most of our London LnDcowork sessions take place very centrally – and we were interested to see how things would shape up if we moved out a bit, and (shudder) drifted away from the tube network. Any doubts we had were quickly dispersed; the venue is a short walk from Clapham Junction station and for many of our guests that day, it was as easy, if not easier to get to than the centre of the city. One of our guests travelled over from Cambridge, several overcame their ‘South of The River’ syndrome, and I think I had one of the most straightforward trips, a 20 minute train ride and a ten minute walk.

We were greeted warmly at the entrance to ScratchHub, located at the rear of the main building, and given a great space to work in. Battersea Arts Centre is a beautiful place – and a sense of being in a creative space is evident in the ScratchHub coworking area. As well as some theatrical symbols, the walls are adorned with prompts and ideas to encourage personal reflection, and a sense of engagement too. The place has a community feel about it, with a time bank on offer, and some board games. Play is an important part of what makes us human and it’s great to see playfulness being encouraged in a working environment.

‘Non mihi, non tibi, sed nobis’ reads the beautifully painted motto adorning the walls of ScratchHub. Not for me, not for you, but for us.

Beyond the hygiene factors (wi-fi, natural light, good acoustics, and an abundance of plug sockets) coworking is about two things; people and place. Both were spot on for this visit. 10/10.

Jayne Davids, one of our coworking guests, has put together a great short video which showcases both the beauty and creativity of ScratchHub, and why LnDcowork matters. I hope you enjoy watching and we look forward to seeing you at an LnDcoworking session soon; dates and locations of future sessions are available here.

Afterimage : A Remembrance Piece

After hearing the news of Neil Peart’s death earlier this week – my thoughts turned to how I might acknowledge his life through the free art project. I wanted to reference his lyrics and connect these with a design familiar to Rush fans.

The song Afterimage opens with the lines:

Suddenly, you were gone

From all the lives you left your mark upon

N Peart

The song later begins to conclude with:

I learned your love for life

I feel the way that you would

I feel your presence

I remember

N Peart

Neil Peart was a private person, and news of his ill health had successfully been kept from the media – so in that respect, his death came as a shock. These words feel apt.

As an image – I chose to adapt the Rush Starman design originally by Hugh Syme. Peart once described the design as ‘the abstract man against the masses’. I’ve chosen to represent the design with tiny dots – and sought to create a fading out appearance towards the bottom of the design. ‘Afterimage’ will be the next free art drop and it will be accompanied by a print out of this blog post.

‘Afterimage’ adapted from an original design by Hugh Syme