Chrissie Tiller responds to Culture Capital Exchange’s Creativity and Business: Connectivity, Values and Interventions conference
Maybe it was to do with that ‘close encounter’ between Jupiter and Venus? Or the early morning fog? But something was going on earlier this week when I went to a conference on creativity and business. The line-up was impressive. I'd spoken to or heard some of the people before and liked what they had to say. I do some work with businesses, in various contexts, exploring ways in which ‘creative interventions’ might make a difference, so it's a subject I'm quite keen on. I was also relieved to see it was being held at a cultural organisation rather than a soulless conference centre or hotel.
Then I went into the first session. The topic was ‘Creativity’ and yet, here we were – ‘experts’ sitting at a podium, glasses of water, lecterns and microphones at the ready; the rest of us seated in neat lecture hall rows, notepads, iPads and iPhones poised. For almost two hours I listened politely.
I heard we were living in a time of transition: a time for new models, new ways of working, new kinds of partnerships. I heard the words emotion, passion, experience, energy, engagement and connectivity being used to describe the role the arts and creativity might play in business. I heard (second-hand) about a man who creates powerful story-telling projects with death-row prisoners. I was told ‘we’ (I think it included those of us in the audience) were the people who could ‘change the rules’; allow people to be more themselves; bring the heart as well as the head into the equation.
It was at this point I started to worry. I began to worry about ‘Creativity’. I began to worry about imagination, about vision and resourcefulness. I began to worry about ‘the State of the Arts’. And most of all I began to worry about those of us engaged in persuading the rest of the world that we have something valuable to offer.
I started to think about a tender I'd made with a colleague to a cultural leadership programme for artists. I recalled how well the presentation went until, when asked what we might do in the training, we suggested starting with creative interventions. I remembered how, when we asked for feedback, we were told: "It was at the point you suggested arts-based activities our hearts' sank."
If we, the people working in the arts, can't trust ourselves, can't risk bringing our creativity to the ways in which we exchange ideas, values or connect with each other, then why on earth should we ever expect to engage anyone else?
So, in the end, I went home. I ate the free Peyton and Byrne biscuits that had been on offer. And I wrote a poem:
Spare us, Lord, I beg you
From the torpor of urbanity,
From dispassionate refinement
Of our thoughts and our humanity.
Keep us from civility
And club-able vapidity
From academic distancing,
Free us from the need
To flaunt our erudition publicly.
And save us from the repartee
And wit of learned coteries.
Allow us to be angry
To be raging, to feel fury
To be mad about injustice
Let us be perverse, if need be,
Awkward in extremity
Ferocious in our doggedness
And fierce in our veracity.
Permit us some intransigence,
When faced with life¹s inequities.
But most of all protect us, from
Mere self-referential vacuity.
Chrissie Tiller runs her own consultancy, Chrissie Tiller Associates, alongside her role as Director of the MA in Participatory Arts at Goldsmiths