Welcome Message

As you may know, this blog started life as a resource aimed at the members and Alumni of Birmingham University's Guild Musical Theatre Group.

Since then, I have realised that a great many artists I know could use a serious resource for discussion and debate of the major issues.

So, I open this network to any and all arts professionals who would like to use it. Over the years, I have seen some awe inspiring performances and productions by a great many talented and high ranking individuals, whose knowledge would be an asset to the artistic community. I invite these individuals and others to come forward, so that their achievements may be celebrated.

If you would like to write articles or make comments on this blog, please let me know. My contact email is on the link. Membership is free, and there are no obligations. Existing members are free to write as and when they want.

Its is also easy to forget, that we don't often have a chance to discuss or to think about the most serious issues affecting the arts. Despite all the progress made by online networks like Facebook and Twitter, there still needs to be a place where opinions can be viewed, and I hope that this will be such a place: a neutral ground, where all are welcome, and where knowledge can be shared.

Artists of all disciplines, I hope that this will assist your development and further networking. May this resource serve you well.

Best Regards,

James Megarry


Monday, 1 March 2021

Building Back the Arts

As we try to rebuild from the pandemic, there are several steps I believe we can take, to help the creative professions:

  • Student placements in voluntary groups. Students of the creative professions could be placed within voluntary groups,  to gain work experience in their local communities. For example, here in the UK, the body UCAS might consider co-ordinating with NODA, to secure student placements in amateur theatre groups. Similar schemes could be tried or revived for voluntary societies for dance, music or drama in any form.
  • Student-Alumni showcases. Student showcases for performing arts schools are brilliant. But the basic challenge remains; for how the students can stand out and make their connections in the arts industry. Therefore, if the students were given a chance to work directly with Alumni in their industry, they could bridge this gap. A way to do this might be through a reunion. A reunion is a perfect excuse for Alumni to meet as old friends. And if the Alumni were invited to present a joint showcase with the students: this would give students invaluable networking opportunities in the process. 
  • Digital streaming. Live streaming is now the norm at major arts institutions. And it could be the perfect way to reach out to new audiences - Hamilton being the perfect example. VR streaming has also been an excellent way for people to experience reality in a dramatic setting. These methods of digital streaming could also bring in vital revenue for the arts industry as a whole.
These simple steps could make all the difference, in rebuilding the creative professions.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Changing Perceptions - The Arts as a Career Choice

It started in the men's dressing room, for an amateur show we were performing. My fellow men were discussing career choices, and we got round to the performing arts. "Ah well," they said dismissively, "95% of people never get a job in that industry anyway." In years gone by, I might have agreed with them. But from hard experience of the working world, I knew differently, and decided to push back. I pointed out to them, how hard it was to get a job in other industries too. They insisted that it was still much harder to perform for a living, and so we began a heated (but friendly) debate. But that got me thinking: why is it that the performing arts is not seen even as a full time profession or a choice of career?

In an era of Black Lives Matter and #MeToo; when stereotypes are being challenged; I believe it is time to challenge professional stereotypes in the workplace as well.  We need to be objective, and to take professions and industries as we find them. And yet when the performing arts is mentioned, we are drawn back into an outdated cliché. For the sake of young people's future in the arts: and to respect adults in the industry, we must be objective.

The Clichés

When most people talk about the performing arts, the clichés which come to mind, are:

  • That artistic professions do not offer stable, long term work
  • That creative people are not business-minded
  • That arts professionals are egotistical and that their working environments are hostile
  • That there are are very few opportunities and too many wanting to pursue them.
  • That artistic professions are therefore not a career choice, but a 'hobby'.

We have been told this for most of our lives. And most non-arts professionals seem to believe it. Again and again, full time performers of every discipline, tell me that they have been asked what their 'real' job is. People have assumed that artists will simply perform for fun. For example, in recent news, musicians at one music venue were asked if they would volunteer to play, to save costs: provoking outrage among the local artistic community. And this lack of understanding seems to extend to the production of the arts too: with Producers being asked if they could 'just do' a show.

In other words, the perception of the arts is that they are not seen as a choice for a full time profession, nor career. To me, this is reminiscent of the cliches in Roy Hindle's book Oh No Dear! Advice to Girls a Century Ago; in which women were advised against going into certain careers. And while this might seem a world away from the sexism of the 19th Century, the fact is that we are still thinking in stereotypes when it comes to the arts.

And stereotypes can negatively affect the perception of an industry: which is vital, to determine the support it receives. Funding, resources, and much more, are directly linked to our perception. But while some of these clichés might have truth in them, these shortcomings and hardships are no longer unique to the creative professions. Indeed, I have found many of the same issues and challenges in many other industries. And that is because they now share a characteristic, from the artistic professions themselves.

The Gig Economy

As a recruiter once told me, the term 'Gig Economy', gets its name from the performing arts. But while gigs were once exclusively for the artistic professions, now there are 'gigs' in every profession. So while full time professionals may have looked down their noses at their artistic counterparts back in the 20th Century; there is little difference now.

For example, when I auditioned a music college, the examiner told me that there are "thousands of talented singers", which is certainly true. But there are also thousands of talented administrators, financiers, Human Resource professionals, caterers, and recruiters themselves. Yet no hiring manager told me that when I went to work for these professions: even though it was true. 

Then there is the cliché of the self employed actor, struggling to find work. Again, while this may be true, it is by no means the only profession where this occurs. As a handyman once told me, he had gone from job to job by word of mouth alone: for twenty years. No job security, no benefits or welfare payments. Just job to job by word of mouth. Likewise, a self employed plumber I used to know, also told me that if he didn't find work, he didn't get paid. And as we have found during the current pandemic, over 5 million people in Britain have had the same problem. And yet no one says "you cant be a plumber: the jobs not secure." They take the job as they find it.

Prima Donnas of the Office

Another excuse for discouraging young hopefuls from going into the industry, is the cliche that its members are 'prima donna's or 'divas' who are self obsessed, and egotistical. From my voluntary work for arts events, it is true that I have found some of the artists or organisers to be more difficult than others. But in fairness to artists, outsiders arguably do not understand the demands of being on a stage. Performers must project boundless confidence and charisma and be self-promoting at every opportunity. Hence, in some cases, they may take themselves too seriously or have a heightened sense of their own importance. But ego is a human failing. It is not unique to the artistic professions. Indeed, having worked as a contractor to support many different organisations over the years, I have encountered 'prima donnas' in many of them.  

And besides which; in the business world, we are taught that there are 'difficult people' in the workplace and that we have to learn to deal with them objectively. There are many courses, seminars and books on 'assertiveness training', anger management and personality clashes to this effect. So why should artistic professions be regarded any differently?

Above all, why does this matter so much? It matters, because of the dreams of countless young people, for a career in the arts.

The Next Generation

Years ago, I had the honour of representing young performers, as Youth Adviser for amateur theatre in my region. At the time, my experience of youth work was limited but I was keen to support the next generation of performers. Like many adults, I had grown up with certain cliched views about young people. But when I came to support the young performers in my region, those views were completely blown away. 

I had thought that young people weren't enthusiastic about the stage, and that we adults had to engage with them more, to get them interested. But as I soon found out, the opposite was true. Every youth group and section in my region was massively oversubscribed. Two of the major societies even had waiting lists as big as the societies themselves! 

And the talent was brilliant. As I visited shows around my region, I saw great thespian, operations that ran like clockwork, and a dedication that moved the heart. While reviewing auditions for one youth show, for example, I saw a young auditionee who had styled her hair face and clothing into the exact image of her character. She was 10 years old. We expect dedication from adults, but this kind of dedication from a child was extraordinary. 

And it only got better. My own youth society s performance of Les Miserables (School Edition) was beyond excellent. In the death scene, not one performer moved an inch. But all then rose to give some of the best vocal and dramatic performances I have ever seen. The standing ovation wasn't just from the proud parents. We all leapt to our feet to give applause. 

And that was when I realised a very important truth. These talented young people have given their all for a career in the arts. They have put their faith in us. But by discouraging them from pursuing their passion, we are failing them as adults. They deserve better from us.

'Just for Fun'

People often respond to the demand for hopefuls to pursue arts as a career, by saying that they can perform 'just for fun'. And yes, the arts can be a great hobby. But to those who say this: consider the life stories of Eddie the Eagle, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali. What would happen if these icons had been encouraged to play their sport 'just for fun'? Would millions have been inspired as much? 

In business terms, doing arts 'just for fun' is taking the Path of Least Resistance. It is an easy way out, and not the best one. While it may seem like a sensible option in the short term; a person loses major opportunities in the process.

'Not Viable' 

The closure of theatres and other performance spaces during the pandemic has been seized upon by some, as proof that the creative professions are 'not viable.' As per the Tweet by former member of Parliament, Edwina Currie:

“If your industry is making nil money right now, with nil customers, with no prospect of recovery for ages...please I beg you. Go do something else.” 

But by that logic, we need to put things in perspective. For example:

  • In the fuel industry for 2020 alone, BP Lost $20 Billion,. 
  • For High Street Retail in first half of 2020, Ted Baker sales dropped 1,370% 
  • In aviation, Flybmi  Airline went bust in UK and Virgin Australia filed for equivalent of bankruptcy 
  • In hospitality, a fifth of jobs lost in the sector for 2020
So should professionals of these industries be asked to "do something else"? No. Our economies have been hit by the worst global pandemic since 1918. Millions of lives have been destroyed and billions more have been damaged. And many industries have been heavily damaged as well. That does not mean that they are no longer viable. They can and will recover, with the right investment.

What the Arts Provide

It is important for us to remember what the creative professions provide to our society and our economy. The question has been asked behind closed doors by investors and politicians alike: what do the creative industries do for our economy? Besides their statistical value, these are the two most important services that the arts provide for the general population:

Entertainment. Since the pandemic began, an array of professionals, from radio DJ's to TV actors, have been working full time to keep people entertained during lockdown. Being away from family, friends and colleagues, and being unable to socialize, had made home entertainment a necessity. And this is an important service, which arts professionals provide.

Self expression. Art provides an important release for people's emotions, and is arguably good for wellbeing. Online singing, home dance classes, are just some examples of this. And wellbeing through artistic performance, is arguably an important service to society.

The Solutions

So how do we make sure that the performing arts is respected as a profession?

There are several ways to change the perception of the industry. These are:

  • Reframing. Arts managers, creative teams, crews and performers should not allow outsiders to dictate how they see themselves. They should think of themselves as professionals first and foremost, in the industry they chose.
  • Digital streaming. This would allow artistic works to reach millions more people, and increase arts fanbase to the same size as their sports counterparts. The musical phenomenon, Hamilton, has already inspired millions of future musical theatre performers; and the same could be done with thousands of similar shows.
  • Direct career paths into the arts. According to the Prospectus magazine, the pathway for Theatre Directors and Producers, into the industry is unclear. Therefore, organisations such as Directors UK, could help to establish such pathways, to give graduates a clear way in.
  • Student Alumni networks. By having joint student- Alumni showcases would allow students direct access to the industry. They in turn, could give the Alumni the innovations and voluntary assistance they need in their work.
  • Student volunteers in amateur arts. To avoid undermining paid professionals, students could be invited to volunteer for their work experience, helping amateur societies, dance and music groups. This would ensure they gain experience without, being a substitute for paid interns.

Respect matters. All people who work for a living are entitled to a certain amount of respect, regardless of what they do. To achieve this, we need to challenge our own perceptions of the performing arts as a profession and as a career choice. Investors need to see, that in our post Pandemic world, the arts industry deserves as much support as others. And now that all professions operate by short term contracts in our Gig Economy; we need to be objective and take artistic professions as we find them. A profession is a profession, an industry is an industry. That is all that should matter. 


Monday, 31 August 2020

Reach your Audience: The Smart Way

"Work smart, not hard" a boss once said to me. And this has been good advice. This advice is very relevant to the current situation, regarding the creative industries: particularly the performing arts. The industry is struggling to survive the current shutdown during the COVID 19 pandemic, and the hard way to survive, would be:

- continue campaigning for government support

- rely on charitable donations

- wait until 2021, when audiences can return in full

Unfortunately, as well intentioned as this is; the hard way is not the best option. If arts centres and theatres stay closed until next year, many may never reopen, and thousands of people's jobs are being lost in the meantime. Arts professionals - both performers and creatives - have already been unable to work for months. To ask them to wait for a year, could be devastating: for their careers, and for their wellbeing. And as welcome as they are; charity and government support, will not be enough to cover both venue overheads, and salaries, after the furlough scheme ends. Fortunately, there is another way. 

For too long, investors and politicians alike, have dismissed the arts industry in particular, as being unable to sustain itself, and therefore, not economically viable in the long run. The perception of creative professions - at least here in the UK - has not been as a choice of career. Indeed, at the time of writing, a number of students have changed to study for other industries, because they do not see a future in the arts professions. But there is a way, I believe, we can change this.  

The smart way, would be to ensure another income stream, to keep both arts professionals, and their venues going, while they await the return of full audiences. Digital streaming is that option. 

Arts Centres could use the following business model as part of the New Normal:

- hold an event with a socially distanced audience, and
- live stream to audience members at home (ie pensioners who have been advised to shield themselves etc).

VR streaming could also be considered, as an option to earn money, while arts professionals are forced to work remotely.  

Digital streaming would guarantee a secondary income for venues; as audiences would have the option of attending in person; and watching the event from home. Professional sports, (such as UFC, Boxing, and the English Premier League), have been doing this for years. And at the time of writing, most major arts organisations such as the Royal Opera House, and the National Theatre, are following suit, with their own love streamed events. 

But digital streaming should be far more than a one off measure to keep revenue flowing in. Now, in the 21st Century, audience members as consumers, expect to be able to download and view content on their smartphones, tablets and digital devices. Creative industries as a whole, should update their services to cater for this demand. Digital streaming should be the norm, at every artistic venue; and an option for every freelance artist. 

It is true that streaming brings with it, a new set of complications. Copy right laws, for example, restrict the filming and distribution of booked shows, here in the UK. But rights holders themselves, are aware of the changed world we now live in. As business people, I believe they understand that they will have to change their rules, in order to ensure the industry's (and with it, their revenue's) survival. That is why it will be essential, for producers and campaigners to negotiate a new deal with them.

The proceeds of the live streaming could be agreed upon, and divided between the following parties:

- The Performers  
- The Venue
- The Union
- The Rights Holders
- The Insurance Company

This would give each party a clear incentive to support it.

There is the logistical cost to consider as well. According to one statistic by a campaigner on Facebook; one performance alone, needed over 20,000 viewers to cover its overheads. Whether or not this is correct; cost effectiveness is certainly an issue. That is why each venue's sales and marketing team would need to make sure their streamed performance were clearly communicated to their patrons, and artists fanbases. And also in its favour: let us remember the need to guarantee employment to the technicians, stage hands and other support staff behind the scenes; a feat that could be achieved, with regular streamed performances.

While digital streaming will be a seismic shift for the arts industry, I believe it will offer the industry, access to a clear source of revenue; similar to professional sports, which have been able to sustain their industry in this way, for many years. Not only would digital streaming ensure the survival of the creative industries; it would play a vital part in their recovery. 

Let's do things the smart way.

#performingarts #livestreaming #funding #revenue ~digital #artsvenues #income

Friday, 11 January 2019

Student work experience: Performing Arts

Student work experience in the performing arts is important. But how can we avoid undermining the work of paid professionals while giving students the work experience they need, as volunteers? Here is a solution.

In my amateur dramatic society s last show, two of our backstage crew were students, using us as their work experience. It was win win for everyone. They got the experience for their degree/apprenticeship; we got an extra pair of hands to help behind the scenes.

We always talk about giving young people their chance; and at the same time, we want new people to come in with the passion for the arts: rather than expecting the same people in amateur societies, to do the same tasks, show after show. Student work experience in am dram societies is a way to do both.

Of course, the usual rules should apply, as for on stage performers. All under 18 s should be invited to apply to drama societies' youth sections, where they can be properly supervised. All 18+ students can help the adult societies. In either case, it s a chance for these young people to find opportunities.

In fact, I believe that amateur dramatic groups around the UK, could make long term arrangements like this, with local drama schools and universities. The Federation of Drama Schools and the National Operatic and Dramatic Association could work together, to form a strategy to make this happen UK wide.

And the same arrangement could be tried in other countries.

So that s my suggestion for an alternative source of voluntary work experience for arts students: try the am dram groups.

It can be win win for everyone.

#studentworkexperience #performingarts

Monday, 16 July 2018

What Members Want - Results of the Creativity Survey

For members of the Creativity Performing Arts Group, who have participated in our survey, the consensus among participants, is they want the following services from our group:

·         Guidance and online support

·         Networking

·         Business Support

·         Partnerships

·         Marketing and promotion

·         Fundraising

·         Education

·         Campaigning and lobbying for the arts

·         Workshops and Conferences

·         Webinars

·         Showcases and Community Engagement

In response to these requests, I have the following suggestions:


For networking, I think that Linkedin is a good starting point. I have personally introduced some members to one another, based on their requirements, and members are quite welcome to approach one another for connections. Members have also indicated that they are prepared to use Facebook, hence why I have set up a Facebook page for Creativity:


Guidance and Online Support

Participants have said they would like online guidance, problem solving and promotion for members. For example a shared page for Frequently Asked Questions may be useful for members to contribute questions and answers to. This is why I have pushed for a team blog, where members can promote their businesses, share ideas, and solve problems together. A resource that is uniquely focused on the needs of our group would be a good plan in the long term.

But the best way to start is with an existing respurce, and having spoken to one media expert in our group, the following platform has been recommended:


Conferences and Workshops
Members have requested that we hold conferences and events: which is why I had pushed for the Zoom conference. As it turns out technical issues prevented members from coming together to discuss face to face, which was a missed opportunity. Nevertheless, as most members are in agreement, I will continue to arrange conferences, through Skype and other means, so that we may build towards Webinars and other resources.

All participants to the survey said they were prepared to travel to events in other countries, which means it should be quite possible for our group to host international events for members in the near future. In the early stages, I believe one of our members’ venues will need to play host. (If you would like to volunteer your venue for a workshop or conference, please message me or the group on LinkedIn.) The host could book a slot, and cover the overheads of the event; while attendees would need to cover their travelling expenses. Eventually, we could devise a subscription service to cover both these expenses, but I believe this is the best arrangement for now. 

And, because we are connected to people around the world, venue owners of our group should consider creating an international touring circuit for their artists. I believe that there is serious potential for this to help many of our members' performers.


Funding and fundraising are also hot topics for our group: indeed, one of our members is in the process of raising a large scale investment for an important project of hers. There are many tried and tested methods of fundraising, and access to funding, that our members can advise on. What I also think would help is asset-sharing. If we view our group as a giant production company, we will see that there are many resources held in our members venues and companies that could be used effectively to save on overheads.  For example, physical assets like costumes, scenery, lighting and sound rigs, and many other assets, could be exchanged, shared and traded; if we coordinate our efforts and make formal agreements between members. I understand that members' business interests, contracts and logistical issues may make this difficult; but I urge members who are looking to save resources, to consider working with one another, as a solution.

Our international membership makes a strong case for lobbying, for members’ artistic causes. I am glad to see that members like the idea of campaigns and lobbying for arts issues: including the place of arts in education. I personally want our politicians and my fellow businesspeople to respect the arts, and wholeheartedly agree with campaigning and lobbying for this in the long term.

The Next Steps

Having taken all of the above into account, I believe we should start making small steps to make this happen. For example, members are welcome to access the links on this article, to post content and get exposure. I will also push for another conference for members to discuss face to face with one another, and agree on what we will do next. If you have a date in mind for this, please contact me, and we can set this in motion.

Small steps make big strides. Let's begin. 

Friday, 11 May 2018

The Plan So Far

Welcome, members of the Creativity Performing Arts Group! Creativity is the driving force behind every artform, and so I hope our group's name will give it the purpose it needs. Our group is now global, with members from many different countries around the world.
And as our group continues to expand, our members have unique perspectives and a multitude of skills to offer. And so it makes sense to use these skills, as we build our group into a full scale network. To this end, you as a member, are more than welcome to contact and to network with fellow members, to share connections, resources and ideas. For example:
Writers – the plan is to set up a team blog for members, to post articles about performing arts issues. Also, in the spirit of an arts group, a newsletter to our members would be a good idea. For now, we will use this blog to post articles to. Think of it as a rehearsal space for the main event: this being a full blown Wordpress blog or similar arrangement. 
Media and social media professionals – with our group members based in many countries worldwide, it is only fair to have updates from each part of the world. And with so many arts events worldwide, we can put together a global calendar, of our festivals and showcases. With your many skills and knowledge, we could also set up new social media groups, such as connections on Skype to talk face to face, or even a WhatsApp group for instant messaging.
Teachers – many of our members like yourselves teach for the artistic professions, and at least one has mentioned he is looking for teaching opportunity. So I think it is worth setting up a Teachers’ group, for education in the arts. If you teach, then there are many fellow teachers here to build an 'Arts Ed' group with.
Leaders and Organisers - The ultimate goal of our group, is for it to become a self-sustaining network for the arts, run by all, for the benefit of all. While there are many groups for the artistic professions on Facebook and Instagram, I still believe that there needs to be a bigger presence here on Linkedin, to shape the business perspective of those who fund our members’ work. 

Here is one example of a platform we could use to make that happen: http://www.globalvaluexchange.org/
I also believe that we can learn a lot from professional sports, to engage the fans in such a way as to give the arts the dedicated following that it needs. Your ideas and suggestions on this are more than welcome.
As our group continues to expand, there are many networking opportunities to share and exchange connections, ideas and resources. And by utilising our members' many skills and much experience, we can build many new resources, to create a great network for the performing arts. 
Let's do this!


Friday, 2 March 2018

Dead Horses: When to Quit

For those of us who are driven to succeed - especially with our creative projects, there is always the question of when to quit. When do we know that a project clearly a bad idea and how do we know when to move on?

There are many examples of projects that failed, whose makers should have seen it coming but who didn't. And Spider-Man:Turn off the Dark was just one such example.

Failing on a Grand Scale

At first, the Broadway musical, based on the Toby Maguire films of one Marvel s most iconic superheroes, seemed destined for success. Backed by Marvel, with music by Bono, and The Edge, and directed by The Lion King's director, Julie Taymor, it seemed like a start studded line up for a sure fire hit.

But instead, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, proved to be one of the most expensive musicals in Broadway s history, and also arguably one of the most disastrous, costing a staggering $75 million dollars and closing with a massive loss, and many injuries to its performers. And far from earning acclaim, the whole concept was seen as a bad joke: being mocked by everyone; from the cast of Saturday Night Live; to Marvel's own Deadpool.

So how could such a juggernaut of a project, have gone so spectacularly wrong? As many critics have said, there were many ways the project was set up to fail. The warning signs were there with the previews. Having 182 previews for one show, really should have flagged up that something was very wrong with this concept.

Then there was the choice of venue. Broadway theatres can allow for some spectacular performances. For example the dancers of Blast achieved some awe inspiring choreography when my family and I went to see their show. From 16 people catching flags in the dark, to a drummer able to make a drumstick levetate and play itself, through sheer skill,  their performances were superb and world class. But as specactacular as these feats were, they were achieved on tera firma. For high wire stunts you need an arena: as the many injuries to Turn off the Dark's stunt peformers went on to prove. Pity the proposed Las Vegas one wasn't used the first time round.

And then there was the storyline. Julie Taymor may have been an award winning costume designer and director for The Lion King, but as many have said; her decision to make the character of Arachne central to the plot of Spider-Man:Turn off the Dark, totally missed the appeal of Spiderman as a character. What Spiderman is really about, is the story of a young man finding his way in a tough world. All of us can relate to that. But by changing the emphasis of the story, she lost us the emotional attachment to the plot.

And the rewrites only made things worse. Like Martin Guerre, when you have an original concept you shouldn't mess with the formula. For example, the plot to kill off the Green Goblin at the end of Act 1, and then introduce not one but six Marvel supervillians in Act 2; was a complete overkill: and did not make sense, to audiences of the Tobey Maguire films. While im sure fans of the comic books would love to see Spiderman s enemies on stage, the fact remains that a comic book is not a musical. Getting all 6 supervillians into one act proved a logistical nightmare for all involved.

In the end, not even the appeal of Spiderman himself would make audiences come back, and the musical finally closed in 2014. In many ways, the flop of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, stands as an example; that bigger is not always better; that throwing more money at a problem is not the way to fix it; and that even the experts can get it wrong sometimes.

'Dead Horses'

Such a spectacular failure begs the obvious question: why on earth, would the show s producers keep on pumping millions of dollars, into something that was clearly a bad idea? Strange though this may seem, I know why they did it. Because when we think about it, what have we been taught our whole lives, when we take on to do something? Never quit, keep pushing on, don't take no for answer: and when you start a project, you finish it. We've become so used to critics and naysayers trying to tear our projects down, that when something really is a bad idea, we don't listen to them.

As motivational guru Paul McGee explains:

"Focus can lead to you being blinkered in your approach. Determination can result in a stubbornness to change, despite what the facts are telling us. Confidence could lead to a dangerous cocktail of arrogance and complacency."

And he gives the example of the Dakota Indians' proverb: "When you're riding a dead horse, dismount."

But of course, for reasons aforementioned, we don't do this. Certainly not for projects in showbusiness. I have not worked as a full time performer, but having watched my parents put together musical productions for 30 years, I know the emotional and personal commitments involved, to keep a musical running. No doubt the producers and backers of Spiderman Turn off the Dark felt this way too. As the saying goes: the show must go on. And we all do it. I once made the same mistake, letting one failed event turn into an obsession that wrecked everything for me and many others.

The Show That Was Not

It began as an idea I had, for my old student society to have a reunion. Our society was the university's musical theatre group, and one of the most successful groups on campus. Over the 30 years of its existence, talented students from all over the university had come to perform at our Deb Hall. And from hundreds of auditionees, an intense rehearsal schedule, and a meticulous backstage operation, we made sure that the standard of our shows stayed high.

Alumni of our society went on to have amazing careers, working everywhere from the RSC to London's West End. And so, one day while looking at the Alumni fb page, the idea came to me: why not get everyone together, and do a massive joint showcase, for a reunion? With over 30 generations of Alumni and a never ending number of talented students, it seemed like a match made in heaven. People always talk about opportunities, and yet one was staring us right in the face! I was brimming with excitement. What an event it could be - we had to do this!

It took 2 years of steady lobbying, before the student committee finally agreed to a showcase. But it was worth the wait. I was ecstatic, and sent invites to everyone. We had  Facebook group set up, and auditions that I attended. 600 people were notified. Official invites were sent through our Alumni magazine, and we even had a high standing member of the BBC on the guest list. The momentum was awesome, as we waited for the big event. And then it didn't happen.

Due to a double booking of the venue, the reunion had to be cancelled. We were all devastated. All that brilliant momentum and excitement went straight into a wall. After all the years trying to follow in my producer/director parents' footsteps, this could have been my chance. But with a heavy heart, I had to accept that the reunion was not going to happen.

And that would have been the end of it. Except that every time my parents did a show, it reminded me of what might have been.  To have come so close to putting on something that could have been spectacular, kept tearing away at me. We could have made a great event! Again and again, the idea of a joint showcase between the students and Alumni haunted me; and with the same message: it can be done. It can be done.

And so every year, I went back to try it again. But as with Spider-Man's producers, I kept trying to ride a dead horse. Time and again i would be told that neither the students, nor the Alumni wanted the event to happen anymore. But I ignored such comments as naysaying, and tried again and again to lobby both the society s student committee and my fellow Alumni, without success. My desire for a joint showcase had become an obsession. And my persistence only made it worse.

By the end of this sorry saga, my friends and I had fallen out big time, and a lot of students and Alumni were disappointed, frustrated, and disillusioned. My one last attempt came as a video blog, inviting all to take part. Thinking that enough time had gone by to try again, i posted my Vlog to the society s Facebook page, to see who was interested. And then all hell broke loose. The student committee were furious that I had overstepped the mark by trying to push something that hadnt been approved. They quickly blocked me from the society s Facebook page. Some of my fellow Alumni was also very annoyed, and threatened to block me on the Alumni page as well. It was painfully clear that no one wanted the event to haplem, and my persistence in pushing for it, made people want it less and less. And so I finally gave up as the last few fragements of the project s train hit the wall. It was a painful lesson to learn, but in many ways, and in the face of the need to succeed against all odds, it could happen again.


So the lesson to take away from all of this is: when do we actually know when to quit? In a world where we are taught never say never, and not to take 'no' for an answer: when should we realise that our project is not going to work?

I would say the best judgment to make, would be when trusted friends start saying an idea is wrong, and give detailed accounts as to why. If their facts check out, then it's probably time to change the plan. And if it still doesn't work, then it s time to call it quits.

'Dead horses' are everywhere. Let's not ride them anytime soon.


McGee, Paul: How to Succeed With People, pgs 100, 103 Capstone 2013