My son says he wants to be a fireman when he grows up. He’s 4. He visited a fire station when he was 3.
I’m not going to delve realms into the depths of my childhood to frame up my motivation for working in the arts (that’s maybe for another time) but I am going to share with you about the short and very very simple answer and a couple of stories…
INSPIRATION and CONTINUED CREATIVITY
At six years old, I remember feeling inspired by ‘the arts’ for the first time… I actually have a few poignant memories relating to creativity when I think back…this one was up there.
Yes I did have the shoes!!
I’m not entirely clear on which event came first but I guess a linear timeline doesn’t matter all that much because this post is more about the magic actually.
One memory that really stands out is when a theatre company came to my primary school – I can’t remember what the content of their show. It could have been about brushing your teeth but I actually remember more how small I felt and how inspired and moved I felt in the moments watching them bring their story to life. It was wonderful, it was escapism, it was life changing.
And it turns out that was enough.
Enough to open a door into a fascination with everything arts – materials, writing, drawing, dance classes, music and instruments, craft, performance. I wasn’t ‘talented’ at any of it but I adored to express my ideas. I once made a rabbit out of salt doh when the rest of the class was painting boiled eggs for Easter. I learnt how to speak in an American accent, I made up plays and cast myself in them. I dreamt regularly of being on stage and woke up ready!
I grew up in a fairly rural community, childhood wasn’t straight forward and I didn’t have outside influences from artistic adults but I knew from being six years old or there abouts I was going to work in a job that offered other people that same feeling of magic, of possibility, of inspiration I just didn’t know how…yet.
Fast forward a fair few years and to the day Princess Diana died… the start of the swell of the world’s grief was the same day I visited Newcastle Theatre Royal on a school trip to see a ballet company and I felt my heart would burst open. I’d never experienced emotion like it and didn’t even realise my body could do that, my entire body was on fire this was all from my little red velvet chair somewhere in the midst of a thousand seats.
Everything made sense watching those incredible dancers…it was like I had come home to myself but I’d never be a dancer, I’d realised there was something else I could be… me! I just had this overwhelming motivation…
And so I’ve worked in ways where I can be myself and share my expertise. I worked for three years at Newcastle Theatre Royal where I had that magical experience years before.
I’ve felt threatened regularly by people who appear more knowledgeable, more supported, more talented, more articulate, more extravert, more forthright, better with money but at 37 years old what I actually know in my heart is that there’s space for us all.
We all have weaker areas, we all have flaws, we are all inspired by each other ALL of the time!
We can relate directly to other peoples feelings and experiences anytime we choose.
Presenting in a room of 30 people I’d never met before this week, my goal was to inspire just one of them!
Breaking out of my own arts echo-chamber has been a sharp focus over the last year and one I haven’t taken lightly. I have purposefully avoided all the networking events, sharing events, spaces to see the same faces because quite honestly we all say the same thing and everyone does brilliant work. I found there was no personal growth there and I have felt so compelled to sharpen my own self awareness and share those tools.
I’ve had colleagues say; “Claire, I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about, can you start again?” and I’ve been SO glad to hear it.
After the initial sting (!) I’ve realised, the language I used was learnt language to communicate and probably impress to a certain extent, people who were doing a similar job to me and actually the language I needed to use is more like those words right back at the start of this post – inspiration and continued creativity!
In my presentation to a group of people who know very little about this “world” I’ve spent my life working in, I consciously chose to start with the story of the six year old version of me. Because we were all six once and we all made choices that affected what we do now as adults as children. I also felt it was important for them to see the real me and how my aspirations had brought me to this moment of sharing my work with them.
I really belief in the importance of moments of inspirations for children and young people no matter how fleeting can have a profound and long lasting effect on their choices, aspirations and wellbeing.
I also think we can as adults, can understand more about how our younger self expressed themselves and grew into doing the work they really longed to do or not.
And if you’ve not yet listened in and heard that six year old version of yourself and what they’ve got to say you know there’s still time right? Get ready for the ride!
PS – this post is dedicated to my partner Dave who received his first stripe on his jujitsu belt at age 42 after taking up the sport earlier this year just because he really really wanted to.