Arts council cuts

There is a highly depressing article in the Guardian today entitled How deep do the arts council cuts go?

Although the whole article highlights time and time again the negative impact of the cuts on the arts, what really stands out for me is the cuts to the education departments.

By far the hardest-hit department is education. Laura Trevis, recently part of a team of 23, is now one of three. They used to run 24 education workshops a week; that’s down to eight. To cater to their 14,000 school visitors a year, she tells me, as she walks me through an exhibition on magic at Weston Park (themed around children’s literature, with a Narnia wardrobe and faux-fur coats), they will be offering training to teachers, so that they can guide their own pupils round the exhibits. She is upbeat about the possibilities, but admits: “I think schools may look for other places to take their pupils, at least initially.”

I completely emphasise with the difficult choices that have been made by Weston Park museum, this is deeply upsetting. For the education department is where young people will hopefully get a chance to really experience something hands on which will hopefully spark something within them.

As the article points out the creative industry is supposed to be the future for the UK economy. This, combined with how the education system does not value creativity was the basis of my MA dissertation. How do we expect an up and coming industry to grow if we are stifling the roots of that growth? If children do not get that exposure to the arts at a young age then when will they decide that they want to go into the arts as a career?

Obviously, as an arts administrator and a teacher I am against this sort of thing, however the government has got to look above its current predicament to the future. As for cutting the libraries, as an avid reader I am totally against this. Where I live we have excellent inter-library loans and I can get almost any book I require. Also, the libraries provide a greater service than just books – there is free access to the internet. While I was studying I applied for numerous shop jobs. Several of them required multiple application forms via the internet. This is fine for me, I have broadband and a modern computer, but what about those who do not? When in order to get a job at Boots or Debenahms they have to return to the computer several times, often several days apart. free and easy access to the internet is a vital service that the libraries provide.


tight calves

Oh dear, the blisters on my feet are so bad and in so many places that I can’t wear shoes at the moment, luckily we are having a strange heatwave and I can get away with my birkenstocks. I have some compeed coming in my Sainsbury’s deliver tonight, so I am hoping that will allow me to put my trainers on and go for a run!

As you know, I have very tight calves and I as part of my foam rollering I tried to do my thighs as well and I actually let out a yelp of pain! I felt like I just wanted to have all of the pain released. And I suddenly thought about acupuncture.

Now, I have been seeing the amazing Jennie Chew for a couple of years for deep tissue massage when my back or shoulders start to play up. She has a great technique of mixing up sports massage, Tui Na (Chinese massage) and acupuncture for a wonderful result. I never  get a nice relaxing massage, but I always come out feeling great. I would love to have a regular monthly or twice a month session with her, but as I have been a student or working very part time for the past three years I haven’t been able to afford to, and so I just go to her when things are bad.

So, anyway. I told her about my tight calves and thighs and she said that acupuncture was the way forward. So, lots of needles in down the outside of both legs it was! I would have taken a picture for you, but I was worried that I might freak out if I actually saw what it looked like!

Jennie did her thing of manipulating the needles, removing them when the ‘dull ache’ had gone away and then massaging my whole legs. She told me to stand up at the end and the difference was amazing, I felt like I could move my legs properly.

This has already made a real difference to my training and running as my legs are a lot freer, so I will try to maintain this by massage, rollering and stretching.

If you are in Essex and you feel like your body just needs ‘sorting out’ I highly recommend Jennie.

Shakespeare Schools Festival

I am delighted that I am going to be working with the Shakespeare Schools Festival in the Autumn 2012 period. I will be working in several venues, including the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend;  the Gordon Craig theatre in Stevenage and the Broxbourne Civic Hall in Hoddestone in Herts.

I will be working as a host and a venue manager and it is going to be very exciting.

Shakespeare Schools Festival (SSF) is an inclusive, non-competitive festival. Four schools a night perform 30-minute plays in their local professional theatre. This is our 13th annual Festival, and promises to be the biggest and best yet.

We challenge the preconception that studying Shakespeare is difficult or dull through a combination of teacher training, workshops and student performance in a professional theatre. We provide the scripts, resources, training and framework you need to direct Shakespeare in a professional theatre.

SSF is not a competition; we focus on the enrichment of the individuals involved and value the rehearsal process as well as the end performance.

It start in September, with workshops through September and then the final performances will be in November. I wish all of the children and teachers involved lots of luck and I hope they enjoy the very exciting process.


Inov-8 athlete

Wow, of all the things to happen! I have been chosen to become an Inov-8 athlete on their 8 weeks to natural programme. I am so excited by this, and it all kicked off on Saturday. Natural being barefoot running.

I have done a rather long video about it on the Inov-8 blog, which I don’t think is live just yet – it should be tomorrow, so I will share that with you then.

On the assessment on Saturday it was all rather intimidating, everyone else was a proper athlete, including two Ironmen, a couple of fitness coaches and everyone else had done a good marathon time. There was one other person who hadn’t run much. I was somewhat scared. I needn’t have been, everyone was so lovely, it was great!

We had a one to one session with Helen who is our coach and she diagnosed me with Morton’s toe and exceedingly tight calves, I now have to massage them at least three times a day. She has prescribed the right shoes for us to transition into, which will help us on our barefoot journey.

I am not allowed to go properly barefoot as yet as my calves are too tight, so I will have to see what shoes they send me.

We have lots of homework to do, to start the transition process, not least of which is The Drill, which quite frankly is silly! But the aim is to get you working your muscles properly. I think I will practice that down by river on the bit where no-one goes as it is a pain to get over the steps! I expect there will be video available of that very soon!

Values and your business

Values are tricky, it is easy to say that they are important to you when things are good and everything is easy. It is not so easy to stick to them when opportunities come up.

I had the chance to be featured in a national newspaper, admittedly talking about the importance of proper inhaler use for Asthma UK , but none the less my name would have been in the paper, along with the fact that I am self employed. It wouldn’t have led to new work, but it would have been a press clipping!

However, I stated to Asthma UK that I would not talk to the Daily Mail. Why? Well, I don’t like the way they seem to hate everyone who isn’t middle class, white, male and born in this country. This does not meet my value of working honestly and ethically – I abhor their editorial stance and it would have been dishonest of me to talk to them.

On this occasion it was talking about asthma, but would it have been the same if they wanted to feature me in a story entitled ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’? I would like to think so. As Collins says “Core values are key. It doesn’t matter what they are as long as you have them and you stick to them” [Good to Great, why some companies make the leap and others don’t, p196].


ACE cuts impact

The BBC has spoken about how

More than one in 10 arts companies who lost all of their core Arts Council of England funding have shut down or are closing, according to research.

I have to say I am not surprised, this is very tough times for arts organisations,  with local councils having cut their funding, the ACE’s new NPO funding does not have as much money to give out and even the trusts and foundations don’t have as much money. And of course we are all scrambling to get the same pot of money.

So, what’s to be done? Firstly, let’s say that there is no blame on these organisations that have shut, it could be any of us, but what can we do?

Thinking about co-opetition is key, rather than seeing everyone out there as competition for the money. Where can we work together?

Is there an income stream that we can start to generate from the business sector? Yes, this may not be meeting the core values of the organisation, but if it provides an income that allows us to do the other work then is it worth considering?

Can we find new audiences for the work? Rather than all of us continually marketing to the same people can we start to look for non-theatre goers? Can some of us work together to approach new sectors, with an offering that directly meets their needs and requirements? Talawa theatre company and the Albany are great examples of this.

In addition arts companies have to think long-term and strategically, we cannot just work on a project to project basis, where if the funding doesn’t come through for the next project, that is the end of the company.

Let’s face it. There is no easy, quick fix to this problem and we are never going to go back to the golden years of getting the arts as well funded as they have been, but we don’t have to give up just yet, art must and will continue. ACE will do the best that it can, but we have to go out and make it happen for ourselves.

Each one teach one

Plan B is a young, hip-hop/rapper, whose work I had admired for a while now and he recently spoke at the Tedx Observer meetings.

His message is ‘each one teach one’, taken from a Jacob Miller song, the idea being that we can all help one person to reach their potential.

This is what I want to do – using stories to help young people, especially those in PRUs or turnaround centres to develop their skills, literacy and self confidence. I feel that schools have failed many young people, especially those who come from dysfunctional families, and I want to help them change their future. In my recent supply work I have been told by a group of 15 year old boys that they want to become drug dealers when they finish school. I talked to them about prison and violence, but they really believed this was their only option for money and respect.

I worked with them for three lessons, analysing war poetry, but using Call of Duty and the senses as the starting point. By the end of my time with them they were working on the poems by themselves, writing detailed critiques, as well as writing about why it was good and why it was bad to serve in the armed forces. To start with they did not have the confidence to write a sentence.

I was working in unusual circumstances, but they needed the chance to approach things differently and I have the skills to do this.

Watch Plan B’s video here.

E to C at English GCSE

I was delighted to get a phone call this week, telling me that a boy that I did one to one tutoring with for 12 weeks moved from an E grade to a C grade in his English Language GCSE exam.

This is wonderful news: English Language GCSE at a C grade or above is a must have for many jobs now. If you go into college with a less than C grade they will probably make you re-take it. First year at college is hard enough without having to deal with a GCSE resit. They may not let you even take the courses that you really want to do until you have got that C grade.

So, even more reason to put the work in the first time around. The key to a good GCSE English exam? Practice! You probably know what the weak points are, so practice them.

My student wasn’t even using full stops and capital letters properly when we first started working together, and homophones (there, their, they’re etc) caused him real issues too. We started at the basics and practiced them time and time again, once we got those right we moved on to creating complex and compound sentences, moving him away from using simple sentences (except for effect!).

Our hard work together really paid off. He now has his C and he can concentrate on his English Language and the rest of his exams, knowing that his writing is good.