Friday, 11 April 2014

Work hard at getting a second performance

"Getting a second production is about as difficult as getting it done first time."

Eric Stokes (composer)
(From 'The Muse that Sings' by Ann McCutchan)

This is a common problem for contemporary composers: a piece is commissioned, written, performed, and then all too easily forgotten. The energy and enthusiasm everybody feels for their 'bright new piece' dissipates in inverse proportion to the amount of time that passes after its first, sparkling performance.

Eric Stokes's short but telling statement also hints at an under-rated characteristic of successful creators and innovators: the ability to recognise the importance (and difficulty) of continuing the work beyond the successful introduction of an idea. Successful creators and innovators stay with an idea as it journeys into the world. They invest effort in maintaining, supporting, polishing and publicising it in readiness and expectation of its next outing and eventual acceptance into the repertoire of how things are thought about and done.


Those involved in the ground-breaking world of collaborative working, which brings separate organisations together to find new and innovative solutions to complex and difficult problems, need to work hard at gaining a second hearing or 'performance'.

Many of the bright new ideas and approaches identified and implemented by collaborative projects are generously applauded by those who commission and/or use them. Once the project's work is done, however, once the curtain has fallen on its premiere performance, the bright new ideas can easily become faded memories of sound and shadow, rather than influential instruments of ongoing change and innovation.

"That new youth centred approach to providing services to young people; that simple yet innovative way of helping the unemployed into work; that novel way of building health and social services around the needs of older people - what were they again? I think they were good. Why is no one using them now?"

The answer is not simply that the initiatives finished (or the money ran out), but that no one pushed for those second performances; no one worked to gain the interest of additional people or organisations who were willing and able to provide repeat performances which would help embed the ideas within the main stream repertoire of thinking and practice.

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