Ellie Short's Friends' blogs

Cultural home-coming in Senegal

January 5, 2011 by Diane Morgan   Comments (0)

As CLP Project Manager, one of the programme strands I oversee is Powerbrokers - leadership development opportunities for Black and Minority Ethnic leaders. 



Since 2008 CLP, in partnership with Maureen Salmon, has delivered Powerbrokers International Leadership Placements. Our most recent placements took place from October 2010 to January 2011 in Delhi and Dakar.  I accompanied Maureen on a visit to Dakar to meet with Lynda Rosenoir, Business Development Associate at the Association of Arts Presenters and Festivals of Senegal (ADAFEST) and Beverley Sterling, Creative Development Associate at the Biennial of Contemporary African Art Senegal and Saint Louis 350.  Also accompanying me on this trip was Nike Jonah, Decibel Project Manager and a CLP Woman to Watch.


Journeys & Discoveries


Senegal – A former French colony with a rich history and culture, is considered to have one of the most stable political democracies in West Africa.  Its’ most famous artistic exponent - Youssou N'Dour - is the musician/singer whose collaborations with artists like Peter Gabriel, Neneh Cherry (‘Seven Seconds’) and Branford Marsalis have increased his status to International Musical Icon.  Dakar, the musical heart of the country, comes alive at night (the daytime market scene is strictly for the fearless), beats out its’ potent global rhythms and is rightfully regarded as the most vibrant African city for its incredible music scene. This, I was prepared for.  What I experienced was much more; a beautiful (still relatively tourist-free) tropical landscape; monuments for remembrance and celebration of Africa’s past and future; arts and culture woven into the lives of its’ residents; an exciting and thriving contemporary art scene; empowered women cultural leaders; and nothing short of a ‘home-coming’ feeling during this visit, my first to West Africa.

This blog documents my eight days in Dakar in December 2010; meeting with the associates and host organisations to discuss the nature and value of the placements; learning about the leadership culture in Senegal; and my experience of attending some of the truly inspirational World Festival of Black Arts. 


Thursday 9th December

So it’s goodbye to the ‘cold snap’ (understatement of the year) and after leaving London at 5.30 pm on Wednesday, we arrive (exhausted) in Dakar (via Casablanca, Morocco) at 6.30am on Thursday ( I have no idea of the 48 hour hell that would be bestowed onto me on my return to Heathrow - save that for later....)


First impressions

The (anticipated) hoard of unofficial baggage carriers & taxi drivers descend on us as we leave the airport and the use of the English language is non-existent.  Wolof is the most widely spoken African language although French is the official language here. The Hotel Novotel Dakar is an affordable, sleek and modern hotel with minimalist design and efficient staff. It could easily be a European hotel if it wasn’t for the scattering of large wooden carvings and the inclusion of Tiebou Dienn (cheb-oo-jen) Senegal’s national dish on the hotel menu, which as soon as I try and being a lover of fish, becomes a staple meal during my stay. 

First on the agenda is a few hours sleep (although I confess to getting distracted by the TV channel with the melodramatic ‘Nollywood-style’ drama in my hotel room), followed by the purchase of a local sim card, currency, food, and a two-hour long heavy-weight fee negotiation with Ahmed, an English speaking thirty-year old year old MBA graduate, currently seeking work, who has agreed to be our driver (cheaper, safer & no language barriers).  Senegal is a majority Muslim, tolerant country but for some, women walking about on their own is viewed with suspicion (and women smoking in public – well that’s another story). 


It’s early evening and I bump into Lynda, one of the PILP associates, sitting by the pool, working on her masters’ dissertation (wouldn’t you?).  Although I’ve caught up on her progress via her reports, it’s wonderful to hear first-hand how much she’s benefiting from the placement – she is visibly more confident than the woman I met a few months ago, buzzing with motivation and glowing from the experience of working in Senegal.  It’s a wonderful introduction and I’m so pleased to be here (and secretly hoping Senegal will hit me with a dose of her energy and spirit).  Before sleep takes hold, Nike, Maureen and I meet to go through our itinery of meetings and visits, ensuring space for evening festival events (and a little weekend downtime - a.k.a. shopping).  The festival programme is incredibly world-class, full and eclectic but little talked about back in the UK. We will be attending the opening ceremony as special guests tomorrow evening. How exciting!


Friday 10th December

My first full day begins with an introduction to Dakar life.  The streets are noisy and bustling with cars and traders on foot. You cannot walk without being approached by a man with or without goods to sell. Here, It is not polite to talk to someone before enquiring about their health, their day and their family members. We soon learn though that in the centre of Dakar, talk isn’t cheap and seemingly friendly new acquaintances require payment for acting as a ‘guide’ and pointing out the route to your destination.   We head out to the Gallerie Arte Dakar, driven by Ahmed, who quite casually scrapes the side of parked cars, cyclists and the odd crossing pedestrian.  He appears  amused by our objections.  The gallery is owned by Joelle Le Bussy, she has a larger gallery in St Louis, a designer-maker herself and a director of St Louis 305, one of our host organisations.  An all-round formidable woman - who leads with grace, humility and quiet confidence.  Large mixed media paintings cover the walls, cabinets display crafts, jewellery, carvings and other delightful treasures and we peruse intently before heading off to her house for lunch and conversation.




Senegalese are legendary for their teranga (hospitality) and while I modestly offer my gift of English shortbread, Joelle’s housekeeper lays on a delicious feast made from of fresh local seafood, chicken vegetables and rice – seasoned to perfection. The house is how I’d imagined, with expansive but homely inside and outdoor spaces and a showcase for her favourite pieces of art and objects.  At the end of the garden (past the patio and pool) two men are industrially manipulating wood in her outdoor workshop.


The World Festival of Black Arts

or Fesman (Festival Mondial Des Arts Negres) as it locally known.

The first Fesman was held in Dakar in 1966, to highlight the struggle and persistence of black people in the face of colonisation. The second in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977 and now, three decades later, Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade brought it back to Dakar- in it's new context: Africa as free, proud, creative, and optimistic.  Free concerts, plays, exhibitions, dance performances, film screenings and seminars. Reasons to celebrate yes? Not for all.

Although Joelle is one of the few Senegalese artists showing her work in the festival, with a cultural event of this scale it is inevitable that there will be critics.  The festival, funded by the African Union has reputedly cost £50m and was given as a ‘pet project’ to the president’s daughter who (it is said) focused on rallying her international contacts at the exclusion of cultural leaders and practitioners in Senegal (bar the most famous names). With no local or fringe activities being promoted, Senegalese artists are frustrated and insulted that the profile and programming has reached and benefited African nations and across the Diaspora but left no legacy for them.  The expense is also under-fire considering that the host country is in need of much development and many still live in poverty.  Finally (which was our observation also) the programme was announced just over a week before the festival commenced and promotion has not been well organised given the scale and potential impact of a cultural event of this magnitude.

It’s difficult not to be affected by what I’ve heard but after more glowing reports about her placement from PILP Associate Beverley Sterling and our VIP tickets to the opening ceremony in hand– we look forward to our evening.


A Night To Remember


40/50,000(?) people filled the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium for launch of the festival – greeted by fireworks and a lone kora player in the centre of the field.  What followed was an extraordinary spectacle to behold. Hundreds of dancers lined up around the field before performing beautifully choreographed and synchronised routines, powerful movement and full-on dance. Billowing fabric shapes, stilt walkers, video projections and music perfectly combined in this feast of vision and sound – the scale of which could be compared to an Olympic games opening ceremony.  The meaning was a bit lost on me, but I have read that the video screen behind the field showed minnows and sharks - a warning to  young people not to make the dangerous trip over the ocean to seek work in Europe.


The speeches were not translated but (again thanks to other reports) President Wade spoke of his vision of creating the United States of Africa by 2017 whereby there would be free movement across borders, one currency, and all African presidents would become governors. He rallied young people to dedicate themselves to building the African Renaissance and led a call and response-- “Work, work again, always work”. The finale was the singing of the anthem of the African Renaissance – composed by Wade.  The presidents of Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea also made their remarks.   At that point we left the stadium, due to the lack of translation and regrettably missed performances by Youssou N’Dour and Baaba Maal.   We did however bump into Kwame Kwei Armah in a restaurant later that night – the very exhausted and visionary Artistic Director of the festival, the opening ceremony and (equally important) a CLP Women to Watch Judge – had a lot to be proud of.


BBC Video clip of the festival

World Festival of Black Arts: a once in a decade event: How Britain's Kwame Kwei-Armah amassed 6,000 artists for a festival that has only happened three times in 40 years


Culture Sector Governance - Fit for Purpose or Fit for Change? NCVO Conference Oct 2010 - Extract

October 18, 2010 by Hilary Carty   Comments (0)

One of the challenges of organisations working in the arts and cultural sector is that we can sometimes work in a culture silo, not taking full advantage of the links with the wider voluntary sector.   A missed opportunity, I think, to share, learn and connect with sectors that legally, practically and ethically work in very similar ways to us.   


Whilst my basic response to the question leans more to the ‘fit for change’ side of things, my overarching point is that diversity and complexity must always be acknowledged.  One size does not fit all.  Good governance is vital.  But running a creative organisation also requires you to probe, take risks, extend and explore.  We, therefore, need models and approaches that allow organisations to ‘breathe’, to innovate, to refresh and to renew – as well as deliver accountability and fiscal responsibility.


In 2009 CLP commissioned a series of essays looking at the issues and challenges of governance and the overall finding was that


The charitable model in itself is not the source of conservatism or instability...  Rather the problems of governance ... stem from incongruent values, dysfunctional organisational culture, and incompatible personalities’[1]


i.e. - the structures are fit for purpose, but the mindsets are fit for change!


Devlin and Thorold found that the charitable model does not need to restrict the organisation operating creatively and accountably, even entrepreneurially.  What was more damaging was the incongruence in the operation of the Boards of Trustees, such as


·         Informal contracting – so the role of the Trustee is not clearly articulated at the outset and not under-pinned by induction and on-going good practice (and, whilst this is done with the best of intentions, it could lead to legal or compliance problems later on)


·         Micro-management on the part of Trustees – having a clear take on the supervisory role (and inhibiting the ‘experienced professionals’) but not fully engaging with the strategic role: that of driving forward long term visioning, planning and delivery


·         Having an imbalanced membership – often demonstrated in small organisations through a level of inexperience amongst Board members.  In larger organisations this was, conversely, evidenced by the representation of ‘experts’ from other sectors, who do not necessarily appreciate the values of the cultural organisation and who try to ‘eliminate’ rather than ‘manage’ risk;  not recognising the fact that ‘risk’, in a creative organisation, is the lifeblood of its existence. 


Should we consider paying Trustees?  For me, the central issue is about finding flexibility.  There will be some organisations for which payment of Trustees is not only counter-cultural, but counter–productive and an organisational misfit.  The key lies in an organisation creating a business model that is clear about its mission and its parameters – achieving the best structure for the job.  And in some instances, payment may well be appropriate and sustainable.


One note of caution.  When I call for flexibility, I certainly do not mean a ‘free-for-all’ – strong regulatory control based on principles rather than bureaucracy is important.  We’ve seen where the banking sector got with its loose regulation and the voluntary sector is not, I think, so well prized nationally and internationally that the government will apply some quantitative easing to save us from collapse and meltdown. 


I think it is also important that we acknowledge the potential impact of losing the public’s trust in the prudence of the system.  We are working with public resources and the ethical contract that underpins the good work delivered across the sector must be prized, protected and supported.

[1] http://www.culturalleadership.org.uk/uploads/tx_rtgfiles/Governance_Now.pdf  Devlin & Thorold, Could cultural organisations deliver better if they were not charities?

Future Engineering

July 23, 2010 by Hilary Carty   Comments (3)

With long knifes out to slash spending in the public sector one wonders if ‘tightening the belt’ is going to be enough?  How quickly can an organisation bounce back from a 10% - 30% cut to the budget?  And does the investment in leadership or workforce development have to be the first in line for the chop?


I think now more than ever, we have to combine the challenge of the present with ‘the long view’ and mix emergency survival measures with strategic thinking.  It’s a critical time to invest in the leaders of our industries, as without good leadership and strategic planning, our organisations will struggle to withstand the challenges ahead.


I’m keen to create a pool of practical ideas that support strong leadership and organisational strength in times of adversity.  Here are 5 to start the ball rolling - why not add your ideas and see how many we can share?


1     Partnerships & Alliances:  Partnerships are essential in today’s climate.  They encourage the sharing of expertise, create new perspectives, build and facilitate knowledge transfer and ensure that new work is relevant to more than one audience.  They also ‘spread the load’ (financial and operational) and enable resources to be better deployed. 


2     Feminine Leadership: not male/female, but masculine/feminine.  This distinction is important as it recognises that those traits can be present in both males and females.  The Guardian recently descried masculine leadership cultures as involving buccaneering, financial engineering and reckless, short-sighted decision making; whereas feminine leadership culture is characterised by balance, transparency, fairness, social responsibility, accountability and sustainability – long term thinking.  We have seen where the masculine approach has taken us – look at the banking sector.  Can we now place more value on the ‘feminine’ approaches?


3     Better Talent Management: properly supporting individuals to grow through secondments, work shadowing, coaching mentoring etc., which can often be negotiated for little or no costs.  In tough economic times you have to invest in developing talent, because it is your leaders who will create the environment in which people will innovate’.  Sian Thomas ‘Public’.   


4     Maximise organisational memory:  watching the make up of teams to ensure that youth and experience are well balanced.  There is a big focus on engaging ‘youth’ right now – but it is also important to draw lessens from people who have been ‘around the block’.  Look at the contribution of Vince Cable MP to the recession debates and analysis; he offered the voice of experience.  Who is your Vince Cable?  How are you supporting them?  How can you ensure systems to transfer knowledge before that experience is lost? 


5     Structural Change:  the old macho leadership models no longer work for women in leadership roles – nor do they work for men!  Since we have to change and adjust – now is the time to look at what leadership really requires and affirm new norms about work-life-balance; flexible working and the routes to career progression.  Why not break the mould rather than tinker at the margins?


In grasping opportunity from the challenging times ahead, it will be essential to ‘imagine it differently’, make choices and safeguard the things we most value.  What would you add to the mix?

Six: More than you bargained for….

July 9, 2010 by Stephanie Haughton-Campbell   Comments (0)

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2010-07-09 at 12:27:06


Rarely does it happen, but I love it when promises are delivered on and you get more than you bargained for.  I attended the Networks session yesterday, which was billed as ‘A mix of dynamic presentations from CLP leadership networks and Meeting the Challenge partnerships and interactive discussions to investigate what makes leadership learning networks work.’  The session did what it said on the tin and more….


Expertly delivered, which belied the extensive thought and preparation taken in it’s crafting, I was able to dabble in chaos theory and throw a dice, contribute, relfect and walk away with a giant purple crayon (as well as plant seeds – thank you Hilary J).  It was destined to be a hit with me.


Ultimately, the session provided nuanced insights around the key headings of ‘Purpose, People, Process, Content, Resources and Evaluation’ from individuals who had or were running leadership networks or who had participated in them.  Again the diversity of the group made the ‘wisdom in the room’ incredibly powerful, insightful, illuminating and dynamic.  Also, the fact that our discussions were punctuated with raucous laughter made the two hour session fly by. 


I found three areas of the discussion and investigation beneficial to my thinking;

-         Evaluation.  How an integrated evaluation methodology is not only a way to measure the successes or failures of a network, if used creatively, it is also a reflective tool and an effective feedback loop to support any real time changes made to a network’s purpose, process or content.  Also, ideas on the why, what, when and how of evaluation and the ingenious use of technology (flip cameras, blogs, basecamp, learning clouds etc) can take a dry process and make it immediate, effective and creative!

-         Network performance.  How you manage the challenges faced when you bring together different ‘mindsets’ and leadership challenges of individuals and partners from the public sector and commercial enterprises.  It reminded me of a comment made by one of the leaders at the CLP launch on Wednesday evening, 'partnerships are like marriages they need lots of work'.  And bringing together of individuals in any form of network requires the ability to 'hold the space' in terms of time, communication and resources.  Also, how it is imperative that the benefits to the individual participating in network are relayed and/or felt by their business or organisation as a clear demonstration of ROI to support on-going sustainability and legacy work.


-         Holding the uncertainly.  The point was made that much of the work of individuals in the creative and cultural industries is the management of an ‘uncertain’ creative process in direct contradiction to the certainty of outcome required by senior management and stakeholders.  It was suggested that a leadership learning network can be a place where the individual can bring, explore and play with that uncertainly – an idea I love, which is funny as traditionally I'm the one in any group who always wants certainty!


I made a new contacts, shared insights I didn’t know I had, was challenged, learnt more than I expected and left the session energised. 


Top marks!

Five: Curiosity killed the cat….

July 8, 2010 by Stephanie Haughton-Campbell   Comments (0)

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2010-07-08 at 11:24:16

Thank you CLP for the thought provoking re:freshers launch event yesterday.  21 leaders from across the creative and creative industries, each one sharing insights on what leadership means for them and what the future holds – inspiring!


My overriding thought as I walked home…the uniqueness! Everyone’s presentation was as different and as fascinating as the person speaking.  Exposure to the diversity of cultures, perspectives and ideas will be a vital element to growth and survive in the testing times ahead.  My curiosity has been well and truly been pricked, particularly around authenticity and leadership.  Thanks!


BTW - If you pass Trafalgar Square over the next two evenings have a look at the Slow Dancing film by David Michalek.  You can’t really miss the three massive screens in the Square and it is exquisite!


See you at the Network session later today.


Four: Deep Breathing!

July 7, 2010 by Stephanie Haughton-Campbell   Comments (0)

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2010-07-07 at 11:30:53

'It is not necessarily those lands which are the most fertile or most favoured in climate that seem to me the happiest, but those in which a long struggle of adaptation between man and his environment has brought out the best qualities in both'.

T S Eliot


This quote resonates with me as I survey the lively environment in which we all find ourselves working in today.  At no other time in my career does the way forward seem so treacherous, unpredictable and full of axel braking potholes.


However, when I take a deep breath, quieten the internal and external voices of doom and gloom.  I remember, it is only when I have struggled, when I move from conscious incompetence to conscious competence and beyond do I truly learn, develop more able and aware! 


It could be said that our choice to work in the creative and cultural industries predisposes us to a long struggle, by default.  Nevertheless as this ‘decade of austerity’ dawns the knowledge, skills and insights gained from our involvement in CLP programmes will underpin the development of our ‘best qualities’ as we adapt to this 21st century leadership environment.


Three: The Amy Question and Denial

July 5, 2010 by Stephanie Haughton-Campbell   Comments (0)

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2010-07-05 at 20:40:20


I’m re-reading a ‘Time To Think’ by Nancy Kline, a beautifully written book and have been reminded of the ‘Amy Question’.  The ‘Amy Question’ (on page 83) is designed to pierce the assumption that what is true is not true.  Or alternatively butt-kick you out of denial!


So the 'Amy Question' is: ‘What do you already know that you are going to find out in a year?’  The question, as Nancy describes it, acknowledges the phenomenon that we are willing to deny difficulties at the beginning of a relationship, enterprise or change preferring the rose-tined view and that we can usually go for about a year before we are forced to see what has been right in our faces from the beginning. 


I love this question, particularly in coaching sessions.   It can open up new options based on accurate information and allows us to take stock and reflect on what we want to achieve in any given situation.  So what do you already know….?


Time To Think: Listening To Ignite The Human Mind

Nancy Kline, Cassell Illustrated, 4 Dec 1998

If it's magic... Then why can't it be everlasting?

July 1, 2010 by Stephanie Haughton-Campbell   Comments (0)

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2010-07-01 at 13:29:53


At the risk of either stating the obvious or making a sweeping generalisation with my next statement, I believe that everyone has a favourite piece of music.  Be it classical or contemporary, everyone has a piece of music or a song that truly lifts the soul and brightens the darkest day on hearing it.  For me, after seeing Stevie Wonder at Hyde Park this weekend, my (current) favourite song is ‘If It’s Magic’ from the majestic 1976 ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ album. 


Music’s power to engage is intensely intoxicating (Did you see the crowd at Glastonbury?), personal as well as universal.  It is music’s ability to bind people and cultures together that means there will always be an ‘industry’ devoted to bring music to the widest possible audience. 


When I tell people that I use to work in and around the music industry during my career a common response is, ‘Record companies just aren’t making money anymore with all this piracy, init!’  And the theoretical demise of the music industry has been well document over the past ten years.  Despite the doom of futuristic predictions and the challenging realities of working in the music industry today, in the UK, the music industry still continues to shine as a world class creative powerhouse.


It is true, the commercial music industry was hit first, and arguably the hardest, by the seismic shift in the way we all consume culture and media.  My IPhone died yesterday afternoon.  I was bereft at my inability to check email, catch up on news whilst playing Tetris (old skool!) and listen any of the 500+ songs I have on my mobile phone during my thirty minute bus ride home.


It is the relentless pace of change in digital technologies and consumers’ shorten attention span and adoption of a ‘free’ mentality that now dictates the demand for creators and music industry executives to be more creative and visionary in the way they do what they do.  It is the responsibility of all those who work in the music industry, who are instrumental in nurturing new artists and business models and the evolution of the industry, to ensure that they bring their ‘A+’ game.  Nothing less will do – music and the joy it brings depends on it!  


Previously, there was a somewhat ‘sink or swim’ mentality to career development in the music industry.  However, I believe a crucial tipping point has been reached and surpassed in recent years.  The value of professional development in all it forms: external intensive programmes & courses, mentoring, coaching, networks and work-based learning etc are being recognised, acknowledged and utilised in the industry. 

For years many of the music industry trade associations provided well regarded professional development opportunities tailored to the specific area of the industry they covered.  In 2007 basic groundwork saw the first National Occupational Standards for the music industry developed and approved.  Other significant developments included; the successful pilots of the Music Leaders Network 07 - 08, which was the first formalised leadership develop programme for the music industry and the Advanced Leadership in the Creative Industries programme, which was developed by the advertising, design and music industries in partnerships with Ashridge Business School  and CLP in 2009.   

The ‘foundation building’ work of the music development agencies and organisations up and down the country (see: Music Sector Forum) is the grassroots evidence of the music industry’s behavioural change towards professional development.  It is also clear that raising the ‘A+ game’ of the industry by utilising professional development is on the agenda at UK Music with the ‘call to action’ document, Liberating Creativity containing a clear recommendation on ‘Skills and Training’ for the industry.  Also, in partnerships with Creative & Cultural Skills they are completing Skills Audit to identify the skills need to work in the music industry.


The traditional barriers to up-take of professional development still remain;

  • a lack of industry awareness of development opportunities;
  • a lack of industry investment and access to funding;
  • how to manage of staff training absences; and
  • a strongly belief that many externally delivered programmes are not credible or tailored to the specific needs of the music industry. 

However, when the professional development opportunities are tailored, accessible and funded the far reaching benefits ignite, support and enhance the intrinsic entrepreneurial spirit of the industry. The greater capacity to lead teams, companies and creative ideas provides that all important ‘edge’ for individuals and businesses to evolve and succeed in a continually turbulent commercial marketplace – basically to bring their ‘A+’ game everyday!


Now that the tipping point has been reached and surpassed, what’s next? I hear you ask.  Well I was thinking;

  • greater awareness and access for those in the music industry to professional development that is tailored and delivered to meet individual and collective needs (e.g. Music Leaders Network Toolkit); and
  • secure, long-term funding from both the industry and public purse – gulp!

Professional development may not be magic, but it is everlasting!


June 27, 2010 by Melanie Abrahams   Comments (0)

As part of the CLP re:freshers starting in 10 days time, Mark Wright and Liz Magree of People Create http://www.people-create.co.uk/ run a session on resilience which is also one of the 6 themes running through re:freshers. 

In our current culture we sometimes see that fame, money, success can come 'overnight' to those in the public eye, for musicians who suddently make chart success or sensation for instance, and just as quick we see the fame and reputation disappear or have no follow-up or end up in a warts-and-all documentary about the rise and fall of spotlit person.

So given this rush-rush style zeitgeist, resilience particularly means to me the having of 'a long-view' - a sense of long-term commitment and 'giving time' to a particular impetus, value or vision - it may not yet be in view to you and perhaps no-one else can see it yet, but you will work at it, and work for it, regardless.

Willpower and determination has often been used to describe visible effort, a sense of overt physicality a la comic book heroes of Iron Man, exertions at the gym, but it can just as much mean a quiet sort of determination.   The invisible kind.  I'm not talking here about resigned feeling, more a quiet determination to 'keep on keepin' on' - continue to do what you do - and it will come good in the end. Who sums it up visibly for me? I'd say the 'character' of Clint Eastwood, both on and off screen and Maya Angelou who with the slightest flicker of her elegant features shows so much going on and whirring around her.

Call it values or vision or... - there are many names for the quality we observe in the people we see having resilience.


what's in a naming?

June 22, 2010 by Melanie Abrahams   Comments (0)

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As a curator, producer and galvaniser working in the creative industries I have a relatively stable set of roles and identity.  It wasn’t always this way.  My ‘career’ so to speak has had twists and turns. It’s been fashioned through a series of roles up to my late 20s – often feeling like career was strolling beside me for the first 14 working years – which suddenly meshed with a childhood passion for reading books and watching films. Just like that, I had an impetus. I found my bliss.  or it found me.

So my work has turned out to be ‘serious’ business.  Of sorts.  I value having the passion for what I want to do each and every day.  I’m pretty disciplined.  Although even when I was doing dead end jobs for the man I showed discipline.

These days I'm around a range of language on leadership.  It definitely feels multilingual.  It interests me, as someone who has set up on her own before being able to develop a team and staff.  Who do you lead as a sole trader or practitioner?  For many years leadership was something Ghandhi or Martin Luther King did, it was visibly more male than female, it was often on TV and on papers than in my general milieu.  Something from afar.  

I would foster relationships with artists, many long-term, and this formed the core of my work.  At the time I would have defined it as 'being in service' to artists rather than a leadership sensibility.   But nowadays in retrospect I realise that at that time, I was doing what Common Purpose and the Cultural Leadership Programme refers to as  ‘leading beyond authority’ and notice that many freelancers, sole traders, arts practitioners and all sorts of other people in and outside the arts do it too all the time.  They influence as par the course.  Without it there would be no project, no outcome, no meaningful relationship between them and the person they’re working or collaborating with. 

It’s amazing isn't it what one can do when there’s no other option.  Notable too  that situations often take root before one is able to find the language to describe and name what’s happening. 

Makes you think that those who shape and those who have the nerve to see their impetus through to an uncertain conclusion should take the time to name.  Makes me think of the Amiri Baraka quote ‘to name something is to wait for it in the place you think it will pass.’