Profile: an insight into working with CW
Job title: Director
When did you start working for Creativity Works?
What is your professional background?
I started my career as an actor. I spent many very happy years working both in the UK and overseas predominantly in theatre, but also a little bit of TV and film as well. I was very lucky to see the world, to work with some amazing Directors and fellow actors and to fulfil my dream of being a performer. However, I soon wanted more from my work, and realised that my future lay in being a Director. I started working for the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, an organisation I had been a member of myself and continue to work for. Through them I found a passion for working with young people and communities, and eventually ended up as Youth and Community Director at Theatre Royal Plymouth. This is where I really cut my teeth as a theatre director, producing about 15 different shows from new writing, to devised pieces, to established work. I loved my time there. Immediately after that I spent five years as Associate Director of Trestle, a world-renowned mask and physical theatre company. I managed all of their education and participation work, created an MA in Drama Education and directed two national tours, in collaboration with my own theatre company, Blindeye. Blindeye encapsulates my passion in theatre which is about creating highly visual, physical, theatrical productions about important, mainly political and human rights-based, themes. I have a particular interest in conflict, and artistic representation of conflict through theatre and photography, which is another passion of mine. I created a political theatre module for East 15 drama school, and have delivered workshops and taught at various education establishments both here and abroad. Most recently I created and delivered the first ever theatre participation project in Saudi Arabia for NYT. After a brief sojourn as Creative Learning Manager at Cambridge Junction, where I managed the largest Creative Apprenticeship scheme in the Eastern region, I moved down here with my young family.
What does a typical day look like for Oliver at Creativity Works?
There is no typical day really! My job is to have an oversight of all of the work of the organisation, so within a day I might be at a conference about mental health strategy nationally, I might be poring over budgets, project managing one of our projects, creating strategies for our future work, or most importantly, getting out and meeting people to advocate for our work and see if we can create new and exciting projects collaboratively. As the Director of Creativity Works, my first priority is to the staff and it is vital that they feel supported, motivated and happy in their work. As a small organisation and NPO, I also need to keep close contact with the Chair and other trustees and am also in regular contact with our Arts Council Relationship Manager.
The one constant in my day is my 12.30pm walk with my dog, Betty. This hour gives me essential breathing and thinking space and gets the blood pumping for the afternoon.
What do you enjoy most about working here?
The variety of the work is enjoyable and I like leading an arts organisation, especially one as high profile as Creativity Works, as that has always been my ambition. Having said that, I am pretty new to it, so have a lot to learn! We are soon to re-launch our co|Create Artists development programme, and this is a programme that I am incredibly passionate about and excited by its huge potential.
What do you find most challenging?
The workload is often overwhelming, and the responsibility of being an employer is frightening. My background is very much in the arts, so learning about areas of our work such as Mental Health, Wellbeing and Elders is a huge learning curve. Also, being in a new geographical area means it does take time to meet the right people and to forge those close relationships.
What has been most surprising during your time so far at Creativity Works?
The breadth of our work is staggering and to think I am the only full-time employee is often unbelievable as we have such a huge impact on the communities we work with and B&NES as a whole. The one thing that constantly surprises me working in the Arts is the incredible talent and commitment of the people who work in it. The wages are terrible, and with their knowledge and expertise they could earn a lot more elsewhere, but they believe in it passionately. It surprises me and makes me feel incredibly privileged to work alongside them.
What has been your biggest professional or personal achievement to date?
I have been incredibly proud of some of the shows I have directed, however I think sustaining a career in the arts is an achievement in itself. My journey so far has been incredibly varied; with a mix of both being an artist and a manager and I think this is the key to how to stay fresh and current in this sector: to embrace change and to seek new opportunities, always searching for challenging work that you are passionate about. Maybe that is my biggest achievement: that I believe wholeheartedly in the work that I do.
On a personal level, my daughter! She puts the whole thing in perspective!