Saturday, 4 October 2014

Clore Fellowship Reflections: days 6 & 7

I've now left the Big Brother hou...I mean first Clore residential at Bore Place and am now stopping off at the Cheltenham Literature Festival where we are running an event with Will Self on the changing landscapes of digital reading and writing.

So, from a chandelier lit, cream leather sofa strewn, celebrity packed Writers Tent (Caitlin Moran is being interviewed at the next sofa, Michael Rosen is taking New York with The Fonz, and Malorie Blackman just walked in!) here are the latest reflections for the week.

1: On body language. Picture the scene: im full of cold, languishing in a comfy chair and trying not to slip into a fever induced snooze, when Wayne MacGregor - dancer, choreographer - starts his talk by commenting how quickly he judges people based on the way they inhabit their bodies. Needless to say I sat a little straighter. And couldn't help admire the fluidity of Wayne's body language, and his ear if presence. I'm now wondering whether some of my training budget might be spent on a dance class or body language for leaders type class. Could be very interesting.

2: On the building blocks. We had a session on the history of cultural policy with Robert Hewison in which he took us on a whistle-stop journey through 250 years of cultural patronage and censorship by the state. Some of the key repeating features appeared to be a see sawing between instrumentalism and aestheticism, between national and local, and between bottom-up and top-down. Interestingly in 1940 a precursor to the Arts Council was formed, the Council of the Encouragement of Music and Arts was all about encouraging people to make art, but was replaced postwar by the Arts Council of Great Britain, a Bloomsbury set organisation that believed in standards and wished to propagate professional, exceptional art. And very interesting 6 years that seems to me significant to a lot of the major debates still taking place. History holds us on the palm of its hand, whether we realise it or not. (not only was this session hugely informative, it reminded me how much I enjoy a lecture, some facts on which to build perspective, and the stories of history.) 

3: On freedom. A session on start ups provided an insight into some different ways working and encourages us all to think outside the funded art subsidies. More than anything else though I was struck by the huge beaming smile on the face of Tilly a she spoke about being so happy to be working for herself. I saw it and I wanted it for myself. 

4: A provocation for us all. What are the responsibilities of being a Clore Fellow? Are we comfortable with being considered 'experts'? And how can we ensure the world - not just the art world! - benefits from the investment that had been made into us? 

5: On great leadership in action. Michael Day of Historic Royal Palaces took is through 10 years in the transformation of the organisation and having visited some of the places (Hampton Court and Tower of London particularly) over recent years this was a fascinating insight into the inside of the story. His 8 points towards great leadership gave a glimpse of rigorous, principled, responsible leadership, and I was particularly struck by his assertion that we have more choice than we often realise. That we can choose what we do to further our ambitions and that there is often a choice. Even spending a morning emailing is a choice we take. I might just try to remember this and try to take a couple of half days per week away from emails. 

6: On companionship. Look at us! Aren't we an attractive bunch! 

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