GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE Help at hand to make change happen

Professionals in the cultural and creative industries are having to rethink their working lives and acquire new skills, approaches and strengths to cope with the pandemic and its affects. To help them, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama is launching a series of free online workshops for practitioners, entitled Change Makers. Sian Brittain, the school’s head of Innovation, introduces it

Whatever this year has brought, change has been a fundamental factor. Since the first lockdown in March we have faced a long, uncertain and devastating period for the arts, and a very different landscape ahead.

At Guildhall School we grappled with this challenge. We wanted to respond and support our peers, but recognised that we didn’t have all the answers for how to survive or thrive in this volatile period.

We decided to follow the ethos of Guildhall’s own Coaching & Mentoring programme, which offers professional development for people in arts and education, business, health and government. Coaching offers an opportunity for professionals to bridge the gap between their current performance and their potential. The Coaching & Mentoring approach assumes that the “coachee” has within themselves the expertise, experience and resilience to find their own solution. The coach is there to provide the right environment and support, not the right answers.


From Lockdown to Launch Pad

In April our coaching team set up Lockdown Lounge, a free facilitated online space for creative freelancers affected by the pandemic. It ran fortnightly until August. In September we recognised the need to move into a more proactive, forward thinking mindset, and so we evolved the programme into The Launch Pad. This monthly series explores ways in which to rethink, reframe and re-experience this period, using coaching approaches to support participants to identify new insights about themselves, and reveal future potential.


Creating the Space for Change

We also wanted to do “training” differently. Everyone across the sector recognises the importance of continued development, and it is all the more critical now. Back in June, the Creative Industries Federation forecast that many creative sectors expected to lose more than half of their revenue and workforce, with over 100,000 people facing redundancy by the end of the year. There is clearly an urgent need for us to adapt our skillsets, identify opportunities in a radically changed professional terrain, and work in different ways. 

We wanted to build a programme that was genuinely responsive, and gave voice to professional peers - platforming the existing expertise and knowledge in the sector. So we launched the call out for The Change-Makers Series. We asked people working in the creative industries to pitch workshops which addressed live issues and challenges facing their peers today, and to which they could offer practical support or fresh insights. This is not a programme a year in the making, because a year ago we were all living very different lives. The call out was an experiment. We had no idea what we would get. In the end we received over 100 proposals.  

With difficulty we have shortlisted 12 workshops which range from practical tools and ‘know-how’ for operating as a freelancer or small business; insights for adapting your practice in a digital age; strategies for shifting your outlook and response to change more broadly; and being an agent of change for a resilient, representative and equitable industry.

The facilitators who devise and lead these workshops are just as diverse in terms of experience and background. We deliberately selected people who were at different stages in their careers, and could offer a range of perspectives. It is the first time we have worked with most of the facilitators, which makes the programme all the more exciting for us. We are here to learn too.  

The sessions are short but we aim for each to have practical takeaways for participants to implement. And we are keen to see how participants respond to different topics and delivery formats, as this will help us to better understand what is most valuable and helpful.   Both Launch Pad and Change-Makers are open to everyone in any discipline, at every level. We aim to maximise opportunity for exchanging ideas and creating new networks.  

We need our government to recognise the vital importance of the arts and to provide the essential financial support required to sustain the sector during this crisis. But we all know that the real people who will save the arts will be the art workers themselves – continuing, as always, to ‘rethink, reskill, reboot’ for a stronger creative sector and a better world.  

Each week a different facilitator, all of whom were recruited via an open call within the sector, will lead discussions on various topics. The next, on October 29, is Devising and Democracy with Julia Locascio, followed by Using digital technology to make new performance platforms with Marcus Romer (November 12), then Decolonising the Cannon with Global Origins (November 25) and finally Digital socially engaged Practice – facilitation and collaboration at a distancewith Varjack-Lowry (December 19).



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