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Chris Grady: Why connect? I just want to act, I’m too old to network & I’m shy

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I went for a meeting at a drama school last week to look at the possibility of working with them on connecting their students into the industry. Sitting in the café I had the luxury of overhearing two students talking. Two classic comments floated my way “I’m worried by all that interview for roles stuff”. “I’m rubbish at all that press stuff, I just want to act”.

Then yesterday I was knackered – long week, starting to lead and teach the MA Arts Management course at Anglia Ruskin (more of that in future blogs), and running around London on many potential freelance meetings for the future. But it was Devoted and Disgruntled in Cambridge – the national roadshow which culminates in the World Open Space on Open Space in London 11-14 Oct www.wosonos2012.com. 7am up, drive to Cambridge, sit in a circle, talk all day…could I face it.

Yes Yes Yes. There can be nothing more inspiring for anyone working in the creative arts than sharing with colleagues their passion (devotion) and helping fellows through their problems (disgruntlement). The blank agenda at the start of the day swiftly became around 40 issues to be explored. I called two sessions – one on how to find the best way to connect MA students into effective and inspiring host organisations, and another on trying to understand whether there is a way to measure/value Goodwill in an arts organisation. In my first session 2 people unlocked a way for me to reach 1200 arts practitioners across the City instantly. The gathering also gave me immensely valuable advice on the challenges. My second session didn’t answer the question, but gave me a chance to explore it briefly with a senior member of the Arts Council, and an experienced film and arts practitioner. I will keep asking that particular question. I welcome WOS suggestions.

So why go to Open Space (see previous blogs if you are unsure what it is)? And why use Open Space? Because I was in a “conference” for 8 hours and there wasn’t a wasted minute. If I’d finished being part of one discussion, I just quietly moved on to another. If my brain felt frazzled I slipped away and got a coffee returning with a new thought for another topic. And I came away having set items on the agenda I wanted to talk about.

I encouraged all my MA Students to be there. I cheered about it to all my Theatre Royal colleagues. I talked it up on twitter. Kath and I were there, so were a host of creative practitioners. Whoever came were the right people – and those that couldn’t/didn’t make it can catch up on some of the discussions on the Devoted and Disgruntled website across the 21 roadshows //www.devotedanddisgruntled.com

An amazing event, and enormous congratulations to Phelim and all the Improbable Theatre team for making it happen. You can still join in Liverpool (2nd Oct), Leeds (4th & 5th), Stratford RSC (7th).

So – my recommendation to you, dear reader, is grab every opportunity, fight your shyness (take a friend),  learn the business (theatre’s more than just acting), and get out there and connect. Prepare to be surprised, and be ready to grab every opportunity that flows. 

Hope to see some of you at WOSonOS, where there are Open Space users from 15 countries and the discussion will cover every aspect of human exploration. I am looking forward to being surprised.


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