What is the best use if 50+ arts paper pushers for the next generation of creative artists.

Convener(s):     Chris Grady

Participants:      Dan Woods, Clara Giraud, Rebecca Atkinson Lord, Lizzie Crarer, C Saddleton, Imogen Butler Cole, Gary Horsman, Danny Braverman, Simon Pittman, Bethany Haynes, Danny Betz Heinemann  (with apologies to all for misspelling from your email addresses)


Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

People joined through the 90 minutes for three reasons: curiosity, because they were “elders” or fast becoming them, or because they wondered as “emerging artists” how best to tap into elders.  [My “ “ phrases to paraphrase various descriptions offered across the circle]


There were three challenges to the underlying premise:

  • Why is it just young people who need advice/guidance championing ?
  • Young people should get on and do it, and not need/seek/rely on past experience
  • Paper Pushers can be creative too & “use” is an unhelpful term.


Areas of exploration:

  1. There is one artist advisor at Oval House funded by ACE – could there be more ?
  2. We should not prioritise early career artists – why not look at a 20yr old mentoring a 70yr old [check out Authentic Artist / Tender Age project ref. here]
  3. We need to be part of breaking the wider cultural taboos of age
  4. Lifelong learning seems to be a term and an aspiration which we don’t hear as much any more. All focus on 1st degree and education in early 20’s – rather than continuing interest in continuing education
  5. One expression that older people shouldn’t be seen as a “mine” to be used, although a wider feeling that they were a valuable resource.
  6. Very important to say it is possible to make exciting work at any age.
  7. Young theatremakers tend to team up with young producers and so there is not a lot of shared experience available
  8. Emerging artists tend to read/see talks by experienced successful people talking about their success – maybe we’d learn more from some failures. People know the names of the celebrities in the arts and cultural sector, they don’t know who might be really valuable from the backroom boys and girls to mentor and give advice.
  9. We need to understand what was better/worse before in the industry to help current practitioners put it into perspective. “there’s a real gaping hole in my understanding”
  10. Reinventing the wheel can be envigorating, and everyone has to learn to start with – but time can be saved. [At this point there was a perfect example – one theatrmaker talking about creating Bengali/English bi-lingual children’s theatre, and one of the elders wondering what had happened to the actors involved in a similar project at the Half Moon half a lifetime ago – they connected and will find experiences and people to share.]
  11. Are there other people out there doing CGO type surgeries * see below. Noone seemed to know of others.
  12. Younger artists should get out there, see work, prop up the bar in theatres and the spaces they hope to inhabit, talk to people, congratulate the director/boss/elder – everyone needs praise, and everyone likes to be asked their opinions and offer advice. Use that human trait to make connections.
  13. Discussion on the loneliness of the solo artis/creator/company, and how valuable it is at times to be able to work in the same room as others and just share ideas, check copywriting, scream and laugh together.
  14. Concern that much of the “wisdom” of how to do it is all now on the web and for some who don’t spend long drawing info down from the web, there is a missing element of human contact just chatting about challenges


Quick Proposals:

  1. What about finding more people who do what CGO does
  2. What about finding some funding to make this more available rather than just a charity/free offer of time [as Oval House]
  3. What about finding a room where creative individuals can work together and bounce ideas off [I’m sure these exist – let’s share knowledge]
  4. What about a Blog of artistic/creative producer cock-ups for learning. [I will start writing some of them down on my CGO blog]


CGO Surgery

For anyone who would be interested. This is a free offer for any creative to come and have a creative conversation for 1 hour in my “office” at the National Theatre, once a month [well a café table in the Lyttleton which has been my base for 5+ years].  Anyone who wants a slot, email me and I will try and accommodate. Next one Sat Mar 3rd and then monthly/ish after that. Dates on my website www.chrisgrady.org.


Final thoughts

  1. I love Jen S’s suggestion to get a few trusted mentors to write a phrase about how they see you and what you give them by your existence. It is so heartening to read that people do rate you. I did it using Linked In. I sent out a note saying will you recommend me? I got some lovely stuff and it read a bit like an obituary [I am saving it carefully with my will to pass onto the Stage when needed]
  2. I was asked did I have one piece of advice for an emerging artist – really difficult because that’s too generalized question. Three thoughts. Follow your dream. You have most of the answers inside you – you just may need a bit of help getting them out. You probably know (or are one degree of separation away from) every person you need to know at each stage of your journey – you just have to do a bit of lateral thinking about how to engage with them.


Thanks for a lovely slow-burn discursive session. I have not caught everything because there are some really interesting side-chats about specifics.



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