Last Friday I went to see Cheek by Jowl's stunning, Russian company, ‘Tempest’ at the Barbican. Then, on Saturday afternoon I managed to catch the second half of Stoke City's 5-0 defeat of Bolton Wanderers; both of them great performances.
The parallels between Puliss' (Stoke’s manager) and Yasulovitch's (Prospero) tough management styles didn't go un-noticed. Each of them men on a mission, out to prove their own righteousness - even the final score was pretty much the same. Old defeats avenged, cruel twists of fate righted and long vanquished pride restored. Pulis, of course, still has to prove he can take his team right through to the Cup and not lose the league. Yasulovitch's problems finished with the curtain call.
I could go on about team work and ensemble and playfulness and tactics, even beautiful young men... But, beyond wanting to prove that sporting analogies are not necessarily a male prerogative, it was thinking about the role resilience played in each event that both brought them to mind when I set out to write this blog.
Re-visiting Art Council England's Achieving Great Art for Everyone, as university Arts and Humanities courses start to bite the dust alongside regional theatre companies, local galleries and national Youth Arts organisations makes for sobering reading. In the context of the current slash and burn ecology, I became particularly intrigued by the ubiquitousness of the word resilience and the necessity for arts organisations to develop it, alongside sustainability and enterprise, at a time when public investment is being reduced (Goal 3 of 5 in the above publication).
What, I began to wonder, does resilience look like through the eyes of Arts Council England? Is it, as in civil protection circles, connected to a "community’s ability to absorb disasters and return rapidly to normal socioeconomic activity: the capacity to recover quickly from the physical and emotional impact of earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural hazards (it is mentioned in the same breath as climate change)? What football managers have termed "bouncebackability"? Or is it much more about developing new financial and business models: the kind that can apparently move funded arts organisations from disabling dependence towards the rigour of adaptive resilience?
Demos recently identified what it calls the Four Es of community resilience: engagement, education, empowerment and encouragement . In civil protection circles resilience is often said to be dependent on a community's ability to trust one another. The most resilient communities have been found to be those that, like the Japanese, have a sense of collective responsibility, mutual respect and a more equitable economy. The Cheek by Jowl Russian company was a great model of ways in which years of ensemble working and the trust that imparts can cut through the withdrawal of state funding and still lead to work that is stunningly innovative, relevant and creative.
It would be great to think that ACE's new ecology might lead to the creation of a landscape in which these qualities were brought to the fore. That the larger, regularly funded organisations might really be contracted to engage with collaborative working, sharing of resources, knowledge and ideas with those smaller un-funded companies. Or required to put a good deal more of their resources into community engagement, education, empowerment and encouragement?
Maybe, if that was to really happen, and with the right kind of leadership, we could look forward to a 5-0 victory of our own?