Boom: Halfway

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Somehow I am now 6 months in to the BOOM scheme. Ordinarily the summer months are the quietest of my year: a time for research, contemplation, reviewing processes, filing and generally taking stock. This year they seem to have been jam-packed with funding bids, evaluations, meetings, programming, travel and any number of other things. I had been relying on this period as the time when I could really get stuck in to BOOM, knowing that January-April 2018 will be hectic.

I’ve made a start on many of the things I said I wanted to do: I’m about to sign myself up to train as a qualified coach which will be hugely beneficial when working closely with artists, I went to Manchester International Festival for the first time, I’ve done a short course in Intellectual Property law (relevant when commissioning new work), I’ve been blogging, I’ve started work on creating a website for myself as a producer, and I’ve drafted a strategy for our outdoor work at the festival which has already started to have a positive impact on our commissioning priorities and fundraising.

The most notable thing so far is that BOOM has led me to get out and see more outdoor/installation work, have more conversations about it, and be more considered about the work I’m doing for the festival. I have so many more ideas buzzing around my head, and a list of potential projects as long as my arm for future festivals. So I’m now faced with the challenge of working out how to prioritise those and make them happen which is where the strategy comes in. It has given me a taste of what it’s like to focus solely on producing, but the challenge is that my current job includes so much more (programming and delivery of the festival).  While working in a large organisation means I have access to skills and resources that a freelance producer wouldn’t, I’m also constrained by decision-making processes, organisational priorities, and the fact that most of our staff also have 3 other festivals to deal with so their time is very carefully managed.

I have been able to spend more time getting to the bottom of presenting this kind of work in the context of a jazz festival. To date it has been a bit tricky to find jazz musicians interested in presenting their music in radically new ways. You don’t often find jazz musicians making sound installations. And if there are some out there who are interested, they rarely get the opportunity to do it so how do we identify them? There are many sound artists out there making fantastic work incorporating improvisation which can be suitable for the festival. If we have asked them to, some have even adapted works to use jazz samples. But it would be a real shame if all the boundary-pushing outdoor work at the festival had nothing to do with jazz musicians – especially since our goal is to get more people to engage with jazz. So I’ve realised that I need to work harder to identify those jazz artists that are interested and actively help them develop ideas (which is why I’m learning about coaching). We did a small call for ideas to jazz musicians a few years ago: there were one or two who really got it but it felt like the rest hadn’t quite understood the brief. Reflecting on that experience, I’d like to approach it differently this time around and hold a one-day event to generate ideas. We can help shape the ideas and also help make connections between jazz artists, producers, interested promoters etc. I’ve been keeping a mental note of artists who are interested in this kind of thing as I come across them, with the aim of inviting them all to the event.

Looking ahead to the next few months, I’ve been in touch with a potential mentor and we’re trying to set up a meeting, I’m trying to source some funding for the event, and soon I’ll be heading to Sonica festival in Glasgow – I’m particularly excited about the latter as it’s the kind of event I’d love to put together myself, and I don’t think I’ve been to anything like it before. I’ve certainly made some good headway but I don’t think I’ve managed to get quite as far as I would have liked by this point. Choosing to set aside a day for BOOM every couple of weeks worked quite well to get things moving, but I think perhaps I should have continued with that beyond the first two months! As things get busier in the office, I can feel how easy it could be for the weeks and months to slip past…

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