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A Sector Revolution. The World Has Changed. How should we?

April 3, 2020

Opening from today’s 4pm Zoom Room on Friday 3 April 2020

(Please scroll down to the end for the Asks which came after the second sector conversation on April 17 2020)

Thank you all so much for joining us. I am overwhelmed by the response. A huge thank you also to Catherine, Leo and Michelle for agreeing to join me on this journey thus far and for putting their names to this conversation.

Before I begin, I need to acknowledge that all that I say is within the context that we are in the most terrible of times and a prolonged state of grief and fear. Too many lives have already been lost, too many more will be before this even begins to turn a corner and health and life is of the paramount importance at this time. I cannot offer my help as key worker or beyond my four walls and therefore have tried to help in some small way in the sector I know and love.

I concur with the statement that one does not need to be at one’s most productive during a global pandemic. However I personally felt the need to step up and give back if only in terms of time and thinking. And it has allowed me to feel of use and takes down the levels of anxiety about friends, loved ones and all those at risk. My contribution may go no further than today and the offering of mine and our thinking thus far to ACW and other sector leaders.

On March 16 I contacted ACW to offer my help and propose a programme of remote learning, development and radical thinking where participants get paid so they bodies and souls are nourished and we spend this time investing in our people, upskilling, knowledge sharing, networking, mentoring and thinking so when we re-emerge to make the work we are stronger, more connected; more resilient & ready.

I emailed Nick Capaldi and Sian Tomos who is here with us today, to offer my help and the idea. They were just entering the eye of the storm but both found time to reply. I was encouraged to sound out my peers.

I should make clear that I am not an Arts council associate or work for the Arts Council. I have not been paid or commissioned to do this thinking.

My original idea was for myself and others to for small grants to design a learning & development & radical re-thinking programme. Once the grants had been closed I rethought and began to sound out some peers at Producers Place and the UK wide What Next Chapter chairs meeting. Then I asked Catherine, Leo and Michelle if they would join me to help me think about it all some more. We met in a zoom room and following our first meeting I began to draft a very rough sketch of what remote learning and development programme could look like. I contacted Nick and Sian again and let them know what I was doing and that I would do this in case they could use it and strategically fund something of this sort. I understood then and do now that this work may never be used. I understand there is a need for immediate and emergency responses to those in urgent financial need. I understand that perhaps there should and could be more than one stage or level or response. I wanted to offer some thoughts, some possibilities which may aid that thinking which is where you all come in.  I pledge to gather the responses in this conversation and any that come afterwards by email before the end of Monday and pass them on to ACW. That much I pledge to do.

I will pass it onto ACW whose plans are almost already formed and they may or may not be able to strategically invest in something like this. However I also want to make clear that in this zoom room today and beyond there are people who can take this forward. There are many people who are in privileged and salaried leadership positions who can invest in this kind of work or similar. The responsibility to invest in freelance artists and creatives must not lie with ACW alone and freelance artists and creatives must be at the heart of any radical thinking and paid to be there.

So my idea is simple and responds to the following identified needs

Income for Freelancers (pay and purpose)

Shared Knowledge

Networking

Mentoring & Peer to Peer mentoring

Space & Time to think differently and re-imagine/re-design how we work, who we are creating for and why. Radical change to achieve Equality of access, provision & power

 

Identified Needs

Income for Freelancers – After the first stage of emergency financial help I believe the next stage should be Pay with Purpose. I personally know what it is like to have someone invest in me. I know the transformational effect of being paid to think, learn and develop. I also know as a freelancer for nearly 30 years and married to a freelance actor and writer what it is like to be locked outside of training and development due to a lack of financial means. Sometimes because that training or those rooms with key speakers have a price ticket and sometimes because even though the training itself is free I cannot afford to take a day out unpaid. I cannot afford the travel, the accommodation or quite simply the time. In this programme every participant gets paid to take part.

Let us invest in our artists and creatives. Let us pay them to participate in training. In learning and development. Because I guarantee and I am living proof that if you invest in people the rewards and dividends will be rich and long and far reaching.

Shared Knowledge I have been thinking about this for a while. It was an identified need behind the Talking Shop. So many people ask me for advice and I always think about the many who do not. I think about the knowledge, experience and skills people have in our sector and how little structure there is to systematically share that. So much time is then wasted by everyone having to learn in isolation. I know because I did. And I was ballsy and asked quite a bit. And I also didn’t because I didn’t want to appear stupid and naïve. And it took me to go on a year-long leadership course to understand that I was neither stupid nor naïve and that many dots and people needed joining up. I am thinking about the next generation of cultural leaders in Wales. I have some skills and knowledge. I know others who have lots more. Let’s use this time to share that and come out the other side a sector more joined up, connected, skilled, informed and resilient. Let’s create a Hive Mind. A Skills and Knowledge Bank. Let’s create themed zoomed rooms with experienced hosts on everything from business planning; strategy; leadership; networking; branding; mission; vision & values work; resilience; policy; governance; influencing; fundraising; producing; touring; budgets; new writing; setting up a small business, access best practice; new thinking etc. etc.

And let’s pay everyone to take part.

Networking, Mentoring & Peer to Peer mentoring comes up time and time again as an identified need. Only because of the Clore and being given mentors and told to find myself a peer mentor did I begin to understand the power of mentoring and the lack and urgent need for it across our sector. Sometimes the need for a mentor which is articulated is actually a need for access to gatekeepers and power sharing and career pathways. Let’s call that networking.

Space & Time to think differently and re-imagine/re-design how we work, who we are creating for and why. Radical change to achieve Equality of access, provision & power This is the big one. This is what we need time for and now we have it. Let’s not simply work out how to do what we have always done but digitally and remotely. Now we have time and space to reflect and influence and shape the society we want to be part of. We have been failing to reach new and diverse audiences. We continue to lack gender, racial, class and disability equality in our sector both in our audiences and participants and visitors and those who govern and lead our organisations and those who create the work. I would strongly argue that our structures and ways of working are not fit for purpose for 2020 and beyond.

Many were disenfranchised. Many were not included and involved and were not heard in our cultural sector. Much was amiss. Now is a time to think about how we address that and begin to do things differently. That means those who hold power, however large or small and in whatever shape listening and responding and investing in those without power.

My basic idea is a programme of remote learning and development and think-ins where we upskill, share knowledge and experience, we join up people AND the dots. We match mentors and mentees and peer mentors. And we pool ideas and thinking and brainstorm stuff together for the future. Jude Kelly my Clore mentor used to run something called ‘think-ins’ at the start of each new festival at the Southbank where she brought together diverse and interesting people who learnt from each other. I don’t just mean all the existing cultural leaders  teach a load of other people stuff (although I do think what’s in our combined minds and professional experience is of huge value and worth sharing). It is about everyone listening and learning too and bringing in unlikely alliances from beyond the cultural sector to enable us to think differently. And most importantly we pay people to take part and to host.

So imagine this

Imagine we create a strategically invested Wales wide  programme of learning and development, mentoring and networking and brave radical blue sky thinking that can be rolled out fast as well as financially and professionally support as many freelance creatives as possible?

Imagine the cultural sector Zoom Room Learning, Development & Radical Thinking Module Programme

Nb Paying Participants and Room Hosts is key for which ACW strategic investment is required

Each room host gets a fee for every 7.5 hours unless they are in a salaried position in an APW organisation.

Each participant gets the equivalent of a day’s fee and a day’s training (7.5 hours) spread over several days

The training module could be made up of for instance:

4 one hour group sessions

Two 1-2-1’s

Two think-in sessions

Participants could choose from

  • 4 one hour group sessions from a selection of ‘themed rooms’. Each ‘themed room will be hosted by leaders with experience and knowledge in those areas which between them will cover business planning; strategy; leadership; networking; branding; mission; vision & values work; resilience; policy; governance; influencing; fundraising; producing; touring; budgets; new writing; setting up a small business, access best practice; audience engagement, new thinking etc. etc.
  • 2 x one hour 1-2-1’s with people/hosts of their choice
  • Two 45 minute facilitated think-in conversation sessions bringing ideas for radical change and restructure underpinned by knowledge, facts and experience.

These can then be joined to and/or lead to Mentoring and Peer Mentoring matching, Open Spaces, Action Learning Sets and Organisation led Project working groups

 

Say we start with

  • Self-Producing Artists
  • Producers
  • Non-Core Funded companies

The Criteria for participants would, of course, have to be worked out. How often they can take part etc etc. perhaps we start with those who have received minimum of two project grants (however large or small) and produced a minimum of two projects in last five years.

But maybe we also start with those who have never even applied for ACW funding but meet another piece of criteria entirely? Perhaps every APW organisation pays an agreed number of their regular freelancers to take part.

However we do it, the key is that each participant gets the equivalent of a day’s fee and each room host gets a fee for every 7.5 hours. Unless they are salaried within an organisation.

So that is my basic idea.

That is what I am offering up. I wanted and needed you all to be part of that thinking and this offering. So I have three questions

What is your response to this sketch, this starter for 10?

What is your response to the identified needs? What has been missed?

What do you need and how do we together as a sector make that happen?

Ends….

Yvonne Murphy

3rd April 2020

Note beyond the meeting.

 

My apologies if you missed the meeting and we didn’t get your request for a link in time.

The Ask
A message from Yvonne following 17 April follow up #TheWorldHasChanged zoom room conversation.

This thinking began when there were still small grants available and I thought what I could do with one 10k grant or even better what could 10 people do with 10 10k grants.
Then the grants disappeared so I carried on thinking about it anyway and involved Catherine Paskell, Leonora Thomson and Michelle Carwardine-Palmer and we held two zoom conversations to think about it some more with over sixty of our peers. I thought well maybe ACW could strategically invest in something like this. They could not. They used everthing to emergency fund and stabilise quite rightly. Their pot of money was shockingly small to start with.

Now we know that stabilising grants cannot cover this kind of programme. We know things are incredibly tough and not all organisations may survive. How we use money as a sector is really important. Because some real change is needed and therefore some really radical big thinking and digging down is needed. The World Has Changed – How Should we? Is, we believe a question which needs some serious thought and investment of time, energy and money. My fear is that freelancers will not be ‘at the table’ when this thinking is done and that the fundamental changes to how we work, what we create and for whom and why will not be addressed. We cannot and must not return to how things were. We must listen carefully and act wisely and thoughtfully together.
Other thinking has been done around this. Fuel and David Jubb in England spring to mind. Others are being nudged into my inbox. Letters have been signed and sent to the Stage and the UK Government. All of this is good.

And so I now ask can a programme with this scale of ambition be realised if all Arts Council Core Funded Organisations pledge to invest in such a programme and then our two Governments do too?

So now my Ask is twofold.
1. If you are a core funded organisation will you partner with us? Will you pledge to invest in such a programme? We know funds are limited. They may be only a few who can actually invest financially. Some do have training budgets, outreach budgets, sector development budgets that could be used for this. If you can pledge this level of support that is amazing. And/or can you pledge to invest time? All those on salaries can you/will you pledge to invest your time in such a programme. To host/facilitate themed zoomed rooms? To mentor? To participate, lead, curate think-ins with multiple participants where we can dream and imagine the future of a sector and even possibly a society with art and culture at the very heart? To help create a programme where Organisations and Freelance artists and creatives are valued equally and collaborate for the greater good of all. Will you pledge to be involved in that today?
2. Are you a non-funded organisation or individual who wants to be part of such a programme?  A programme which could pay a lot of freelancers to learn, develop and think together with a lot of organisations and create a stronger, more equal more resilient sector.

DM me @YvonneMurphy111 on twitter or email me at y.murphy1@ntlworld.com

Take care & stay safe and well.

All best wishes,

Yvonne

 

 

 

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