The end of 2021 is drawing in and the passage of time is feeling hazy.
I wanted to take a moment to stop and reflect because this year, as strange as its been, has been completely different to the first year of the pandemic.
It goes without saying there have been challenges for all of us. Months of lockdown without a definitive end and without my usual London support network nearby, having a parent hospitalised despite extreme levels of caution, and some daunting health investigations (chronically delayed by Everything Else) were some of the more difficult parts of the year.
That said, as a second New Year's Eve in this time of uncertainty approaches, I'm so grateful for all the good this year has brought.
In January I joined Unity, an amazing organisation committed to supporting artists and welcoming everyone, in a role funded by Esmeé Fairbairn to develop mid-career producers. I'll be working with them until July 2022 with a 3-month secondment to Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse.
Back before Spring sprung, I spent hours and hours on zoom with artists from across the region who generously shared their wants, needs and hopes for their professional and creative development. The Creative'Pool programme was born from this research, and by the end of the financial year over 100 free opportunities for artists to develop will have taken place.
The artists of Liverpool are incredible. There's community, generosity, talent, graft, passion, wit and drive in abundance. It has been an absolute highlight of the year getting to know so many wonderful people.
My colleagues at Unity are the real deal; brilliant, bold, caring, open to ideas, non-hierarchical, compassionate and deeply committed to artists and to art. It's a space where I can bring all my ideas to the table, and every day I'm in the building I have another conversation that inspires me.
January 2021 also saw me formally join Alex Roberts & Co as co-producer.
Alex is a fantastic artist. We first crossed paths through the political arts night I ran with Harriet Bolwell in venues around London. He stepped in when someone had to pull out, a friend's partner's friend, and from that 10 minute spoken word set (that would become No Place Like Home) I knew I wanted to work with him. It wasn't until March 2020 in the tunnels under Waterloo at Vault Festival (the first night I remember saying 'we probably shouldn't shake hands, should we?' to someone), that we properly began working together. Since then, ideas and mutual support have flowed and in January we formalised.
This year we've taken a new show (Man On!) through its first phases of research & development, building a team and partnerships with the National Football Museum, Football V Homophobia and Mosaic Trust. We've had two trainee artist placements who were fantastic. We've got plans simmering away for 2022 for Man On! and for No Place Like Home, the idea that first brought us together. We're building a company culture founded on respect, kindness, balance, and the importance of the process.
Beyond these new and wonderful professional ventures, 2021 was a year for learning.
In august I completed my Professional Diploma in User Experience Design from the UX Design Institute & Glasgow Caledonian University. I started it in August 2020 in a swelteringly hot flat in North London; hair tied up, fan pointed directly at my face, iced drinks on rotation. I chipped away through the seasons on coursework after coursework, lecture after lecture. I felt my abilities grow in ways I wasn't sure they could; mastering methodologies and research techniques and prototyping. I completed my studies with a 92% average and the accomplishment I felt was worth every minute.
And then there's coaching.
Coaching is a field I've been fascinated with since my Clore Leadership course, which had huge coaching components. Inspired, I took another coaching course and saw, beyond my own experience, the impact it had on my coursemates. It's a transformational practice. I feel drawn to it, for myself, for best practice on how I can support the artists I work with, and for how it can help anyone realign with the best version of their life.
I'm now midway through training to be an accredited coach. it's challenging and mind-expanding and amazing.
On day one of my coaching course I had to write my own eulogy. I wrote that I had a rich life, exploring everything that piqued my curiosity.
I think, despite 2021's challenges, I've managed to stay true to that this year.
I also got vaccinated and we had Drag Race UK Season 2. Thank god.
I'm very grateful.
Occasional thoughts from my professional life.