Originally written for ArtsProfessional
One of the great things about the arts is that there seems to be a genuine sense of people really supporting each other in their work; far from it being a competitive environment, plenty of people genuinely want their peers to succeed. Constantly working under limitations means the support offered by others is invaluable.
I was recently reading an interview on The Public Reviews with Imogen Kinchin, Producer at Lyric Hammersmith, regarding their upcoming collaboration with Spymonkey and Peepolykus for Latitude Festival. With each partner bringing a multitude of skills and experiences into the process both creatively and logistically, there is considerably less pressure on those involved; as with all co-productions, many hands make light work. Allowing companies to divide responsibilities between them which make the best use of their skills and experiences also helps create an environment which supports future collaborations, either with those particular partners or others – the process can help those involved identify particular strengths they have, which they can subsequently offer as a benefit to a co-producer or collaborator. Filter – who the Lyric collaborated with at the Latitude Festival in 2010 – have recently finished a run of Silence at the Hampstead Theatre, which was co-produced with the Royal Shakespeare Company; this relationship allowed Filter to create a much larger piece of work through the support offered by the RSC, which focused on logistics more than dramaturgical support. Building such relationships and continuing to collaborate in this way undoubtedly allows companies such as Filter to work far beyond what would normally be considered conceivable for a company of their means, and creates a structure which ideally becomes a self-sustainable model over time – greatly reducing the risk involved in making such a step up as an independent entity.
But such support isn’t just restricted to the larger companies and venues; it can exist at all levels. I have plenty of peers who I can easily meet for a coffee with to discuss our work and to give each other advice and support. Similarly, I also have people further ahead of me professionally who are willing to give me advice in my work and projects I’m undertaking – and learning from the experiences of others can be absolutely invaluable at any stage of your career. There are a number of schemes which exist that offer mentoring to professionals at various stages of their careers, including the National Theatre’s Step Change programme, the Clore Leadership Programme and Stage One’s New Producer Scheme – and it is heartening to know that a desire to support others in a formalised way exists, providing a consistency to the process and helping to monitor professional development. Even informal networking brings huge benefits; online and real-world networks continue to grow, helping to bring people together, share experiences and opinions and create a broader ecology of voices to particular debates. Providing people can translate discussion into action, the possibilities of what could be achieved by even the smallest group of people in a room are huge.
We have undoubtedly all benefitted at some stage in our careers from being able to discuss our work with, and being given advice by, people we respect and look up to; I’d strongly recommend we all make ourselves open to nurturing further relationships. Get in touch with someone you’d like to have a chat with – you might be surprised at how open people can be.