Stick your head above the parapet and dodge the arrows

a castle at the edge of a cliff, with the sea below and the sky aboveOne thing I often do is write reviews – either for publications or for more internal musings (as an arts assessor for Arts Council England, for example). Either way, you write what you think and you put that out there.

The intriguing thing is that by putting what you think out there, you enable others to put what they think out there. I’m always amazed at some of the responses – both to work and to the reviews themselves.

The most extreme example of this for me was a review I wrote about a dance artist called Rita Marcalo for Disability Arts Online – the review drew a fascinating range of comments, some very personal against both Rita and myself.

I’ve been reminded of this as this week another review I did for Disability Arts Online (on a play called LeanerFasterStronger) also gained comment – mild in comparison – and also a response from the editors supporting my review. The thing is, I’m not sure my review needed support. My opinion is just my opinion and I give it willingly. I’m actually in a place now where I quite welcome the dialogue and debate that people make by commenting – in a positive or a negative way.

It wasn’t always so; I can remember back with Rita’s review. I was rolling and reeling with each comment, feeling exposed – as though my skin had fallen off. Now though I feel like I have rhino hide! And it means I can get curious about each comment, try to think things through from their perspective, try a different view on and see if it changes the scenery from where I am.

Of course it’s not just reviews, that’s just my way in. Its anything I do. A presentation the other week didn’t go quite to plan – some people saw the world differently, in a way I just hadn’t expected. Rather than curling up and hibernating, or moaning that ‘people don’t understand me’, I took the curiosity route – how fascinating that people think so differently! How does that feel? What kinds of decisions must that lead to? And I’m reviewing a publication – Access All Areas – on Live Art at the moment – how might different people receive it? What might others think of the work that the publication portrays?

All good fun, all good learning and all good practice at arrow dodging. Stick your head up here – the air smells great.

Photo thanks to Argenberg and remember if you have enjoyed this and want to read more, you can subscribe to Jo Verrent’s blog by email.


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