Rising Tide

Royal Opera House Bridge’s annual conference Rising Tide was held at the historic Dockyards in Chatham on Thursday. The speakers had been briefed to be provocative and they certainly were.

Julia Farrington in particular had me sat in my chair, jaw dropped and mouthing swear words to myself at her discussion of censorship and freedom of expression. It made me realise that I spend a lot of my time trying not to be controversial, not to rock the boat. My blog posts here are relatively bland as I try to make sure that I don’t put off any clients, a form of self censorship.

My photography and poetry is very safe, focusing on the positives of the world around me. This has been a deliberate choice, as I use both of them as a mindfulness exercise, a mental wellbeing practice. But could I be more challenging now that practice is established? I don’t think I am ever going to be a radical practitioner with protests at my work, but I do have some ideas which will be thought provoking for my next photography project (I’ve an exhibition coming up in a couple of weeks).

Matthew Taylor, the chief exec of the Royal Society of Arts spoke about how we need a 21st century englightment, not least because we have a very narrow interpretation of the oringal Englightenment core ideas and values. He feels that we are moving towards a later materialist society, that there is a whole generation who has grown up with the idea that we don’t get more money each year, that continual growth isn’t necessarily the measure of success.

This is something which I am very intersested in, I don’t write about it much here, but I try to be fairly minimalist in my life. I got extremely ill because I grew my business by working harder and harder until my body rebelled and I ended up in a wheelchair. I purposely don’t take on as much work as I can. Minimalism helps to support this because I don’t want lots of stuff in my life, buying more things isn’t key to me. My time to play music, write and do photography is.

Matthew spoke about the concept of universal basic income, something that I am very much a proponent of, and the idea that we need a much richer account of work with meaning, dignity and self fulfilment. He discussed self-fulfillment and expression as being core to society’s wellbeing, rather than money. Once we reach a level of income, extra money doesn’t make a difference.

Maslow identified self actualisation as being the highest level of developmental psychology and this is supported by the RSA’s research. There is an online zeitgeist around this, with an explosion of creative projects with support networks, especially helped by social media such as Instagram. I’ve written about my experiences at Sketchbook Skool, NaNoWriMo and there are many others such as a Year of Creative Habits.

The panel discussion with most of the key speakers could have been longer, which could be said for much of the talks and the workshops. It was hosted by Baroness Lola Young, a black woman, there 3 women on the panel (including a MBE), one of whom is a wheelchair user and one man. As so often panels are often entirely white and male this was wonderful to see.

I have pages of notes from the day, which will take me a while to digest and reflect on. I have only mentioned two of the speakers, when everyone was extremely thought provoking and interesting. The workshop I participated in with LV21, Full House Theatre and Kent Music on ‘Thriving, not Surviving’ was faced-paced with a lot of practical things for me to implement.

Most of the speakers mentioned how we, as arts and cultural practitioners, supporters and organisations are well placed to help shape the future through our work. The arts are being decimated in schools through current government practice and we need to stand together to protect them as the arts and culture, and the skills that they bring to young people will be instrumental to our future.

The day ended with poet Jackie Mackay, the Scottish Makar (Poet Laureate for Scotland), reading her work. This was such a wonderful, humorous and touching end to the day, her poem about friendship especially reached through to my heart.

Rising Tide was a wonderful day which I thoroughly enjoyed, I have many topics to go and research and a challenge to my own personal practice to think about…

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