On the brink of the summer break, Denise the Director brought together her contractors and assorted staff. I was prone to wonder, would anything of this collective annual review – featuring 12 individual minds - light my fire:
Denise: …We’ve done a lot over the past couple of years – nationally, as you are aware, we are highly regarded. In terms of school change, we’ve encouraged and supported a lot of teachers and head-teachers to be a bit more risk-taking. Many have embraced this challenge, whilst others… have struggled.
Colleague #1: It’s a bit difficult when the language of this sort of thing – ‘risk-taking’, or ‘change’ – is so woolly -
Colleague #2: We just have to keep on at the stragglers, or strugglers - nothing stands still.
Colleague #3: They all know that nothing stands still. That’s why this talk of ‘change’ will always fall on some deaf ears – it’s like trying to teach your grandmother to suck eggs.
Shane: (pause) I wonder why anyone’s grandmother would suck eggs.
Denise: Mm, all fair points – egg-sucking grandmothers aside. No, after the summer, I would like us to shift our focus. (pause) Along with the schools, we’ve all worked with many different artists and organisations - cultural shakers and cultural movers, if you will – many of you yourselves, in fact. I would like us to shift our talk of risk-taking more towards this group of people – to ourselves, even. For the next phase of our work, I would like us to think more in terms of ‘cultural risk-taking’.
Colleague #1: (blank expression)
Colleague #2: (doodling)
Colleague #3: Hmmm.
Shane: (pause) I agree, hmmm.
Since that meeting, I asked two artist colleagues – one a musician, one a theatre director - how they would interpret ‘cultural risk-taking’. The first response, and its echo, was along the lines of ‘Just basically doing stuff that is out my comfort zone - that’s a bit new, that stretches me, that makes me develop how I work’. Fair responses, but I want more. Thus, I find myself pondering ‘When have I borne witness to cultural risk-taking?’ ‘How did I know that it was cultural risk-taking?’ ‘What did it look like?' and 'What did it feel like?’
Though a fire has yet to be lit, there is a spark in the mid-distance.