Curator, curious and critic

A panel with the words curiouser and curiouser upon it, plus three toadstools and a butterfly.It’s no good, I’ve got to make a decision. What am I?

I’m having a real problem describing what I do at the moment. I was recently introduced at an event, and the chair of the panel I was speaking on just needed a quick sentence so she could do the honours. I’ve done my research, I’ve read the books. These kind of sentences shouldn’t begin: “well….”

Consultant, trainer, evaluator, researcher… none of these seem to adequately explain either the cultural sector in which I specialise or the creative approaches I take to the tasks that I deliver. The majority of my work is self-created – the rest responding to the opportunities of others. How do I try to put all of it into the standard time it takes a lift to go up two floors?

I’ve got three words I like, all beginning with C: Curator, Curious and Critic

Curator: I love this word and apply it to lots of the work I do. Not in the museum sense, but in a more content curation way; gathering things together, making selections and reframing them for a new audience.

There is a beautiful slideshow on the web created by Corinne Weisgerber describing this function way more eloquently than I could. Its what’s inspired me to aspire to the word.

Curious: being curious, staying curious. For this I have my long-term collaborator Sarah Pickthall of Cusp inc to thank. She taught me the art of always asking why, of digging deeper, of looking beyond the surface. And ohhh how much fun it is, how much more you learn, how much more you get. Can ‘being curious’ be a job? Again, it certainly describes much of my work.

I also love the quote from Alice in Wonderland: ‘ “Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).’ I know how she felt.

Critic: I am a critic; (hopefully) providing constructive and supportive commentary, analysis and comparison. I don’t like that the standard definition puts the negative usage first (‘a person who expresses an unfavourable opinion of something’) and the more positive one second (‘a person who judges the merits of artistic works’). It’s not always easy, the putting your head above the parapet role, but if you are clear about what you think I reckon you should be prepared to articulate it.

I prefer the spelling and sound of critique – but sadly its only applied to a process or a document (critiquer perhaps?)

What do you think then? Think I can get away with Curious Curator and Critiquer as a job title?

It doesn’t matter who you are

an outline sketch of an audience - some people are coloured in with a collage of faces.I’ve always been a bit frightened of people. Not everyone. Not my mates or my family or people I work alongside, but people with big job titles, impressive CV’s or fierce reputations.

In the last couple of months though I’ve found that this has changed. Recently I just emailed someone I didn’t know with an idea for a project, almost without thinking about it, and we are now working together. Last week I sat next to a chief exec I would have quaked in front of previously, and instead swapped anecdotes for half an hour.

It’s not been a conscious shift. I’ve not done a workshop on ‘get over your fear of powerful people’ – I’m not imagining them naked. Equally, it’s not been a strategic thing. I’ve not written a list of 100 people I want to impress and gone targeting them like a networking-ninja. Its like I’ve just realised they are only people.

They are each a person, like I am just a person – which means on a very fundamental level we are just the same. And from a diversity perspective, every person has the same value – having more power or an enviable job doesn’t make them ‘better’ or more of a person than me. They are just different. And I love difference so really its just another rich seam to explore.

I’ve always hated ‘networking’ – always felt I should be working the room for a purpose. Now, it feels like I can breathe out. Give myself a bit of space and time. If I’ve something to say to someone I can go and say it, or if I want to comment or ask a question… and that might equally be to someone with ‘a Name’ or someone I simply don’t know – that’s not important, my attitude can be the same.

Feels good.