How can we best manage being friends, colleagues and competitors?

Convener(s): Hazel Maddocks

Participants: Alyn Gwyndaf, Cat Loriggio, Roger Hartley, Tamsin Katz, Alys Torrance

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

 We started off by talking about a general feeling of insecurity in the art world, and trying to find a balance between being friends and yet the feeling of having to withhold certain information, because of the possibility of sabotaging one’s own opportunities.

  • A feeling that in the field of outdoor theatre, there had been a degree of change in competitiveness and that this was possibly because of an increase in women in that part of the industry, changing the dynamic; even though women are definitely competitive beings, bringing in different skills may have changed the nature of competition.
  • How to manage competition in a positive way? In sport, competitiveness is not perceived as being negative. In the arts, it’s more about the ‘old boy’s network’ of who you know, creating a feeling of competitiveness for those outside those networks. Decided that competition can be healthy as long as the rules of the game are clear.
  • ‘Playing to win’ can be a distraction from the process, so if the focus is on the endgame, one can miss out of the interesting and important parts of the development process, which is not a good thing. Decided that honesty is definitely the best policy, but not giving ourselves a hard time about keeping some information private if that would create a conflict of interest.
  • Networking in itself a good thing, but how to develop it and offer resources for emerging artists who don’t have an existing network in place. Mentoring might provide one way of accessing information for career development, possibly through a mentoring organisation.
  • Making links: how to do this to share and exchange information, and support one another.
  • A lot competition possibly stemming from people’s concern for their own interests above that of the work.
  • What would happen if we collectively had responsibility for allocating funding amongst ourselves? General feeling that this would lead to the survival of the fittest in terms of talking up projects, rather than their substance, and perhaps a ‘new boy’s network’ springing up.
  • Comment that we all want the best theatre to be made, much agreement, but also merit of bad theatre (better than no theatre), supporting good theatre by allowing the freedom to fail, and as a learning process for future improvement.
  • Concluded that honesty is generosity – accurate feedback and opinion, however bad, is much more useful in learning and growing. ‘Show and tell’ structures not seen as useful, as they don’t really provide a context for honest feedback, which was better delivered on a one-to-one basis, such as by e-mail.
  • Also being honest with ourselves, acknowledging mistakes, even if we need to talk up and ‘gloss’ projects to promote them.
  • Important to support each other as best we can, allowing theatre to raise it’s game, but not get hung up or guilty about the need to compete.