Life After Dartington Newsletter, February, 2005
According to business and leadership guru, Charles Handy, if you want your company to be successful, think theatre. These words have been highly motivational in the formation of a new company based at Dartington called Theatre 4 Business. The company was set up by Josie Sutcliffe, HEFCE Business Fellow and former Subject Director of Theatre and Diana Theodores, Research Fellow in Choreography and former Reader in Theatre. The other two partners who make up the ‘4’ in Theatre 4 Business and who form the London base are Commedia specialist, Didi Hopkins and Mary Lidgate, an executive director of Carbonsense, the carbon emissions awareness organisation and also a community theatre practitioner.
Theatre 4 Business is both a research project and a business. It started last September, when Josie and Diana resigned from their teaching posts in Theatre in order to reinvent themselves and take up new career challenges. “We wanted to have an adventure, collaborate with each other and also with Dartington in a new way” they explain. Then they successfully applied for Proof of Concept funding from the Centre for Creative Enterprise and Participation to begin their practice based research. ‘We are exploring how the creative processes within the arts are transferable to the world of business and how organisations that involve the arts become more creative and innovative in their thinking” says Diana. “Our practical approach to working with businesses and organisations is forged by the ethos and culture of collaborative theatre making at Dartington” says Josie. “The social and creative processes within the world of theatre, especially collaborative and devised theatre,” says Diana, “can have a profound impact on personal growth and on the creative health of an organisation.”
Over this last year, while the company has been ‘incubating’ at Chimmels Theatre 4 Business has worked with a diverse range of businesses and organisations, including the Higher Education Regional Development Agency, Cranfield University’s Praxis Centre and MBA programme at the School of Management, the Torbay Council and even our very own Dartington Arts and Dartington + teams. Their facilitation work ranges from motivational and ‘creative rejuvination’ Away Days, team building, communication and presentation skills, to personal impact and effectiveness and one-to-one coaching in a variety of contexts. ‘We’re on a fantastic learning curve” says Diana “and the encouragement and support from Mary Schwarz and CCEP has been invaluable.”
‘T4B’ as they call themselves, believe that successful business like successful theatre thrives on individual diversity, dynamic collaboration and the creative energy of change. Diana and Josie have been kept very busy discussing and demonstrating this with company managers, senior executives and corporate Human Resource directors and how every aspect of theatre goes on in business. “These two worlds share vision, energy, communication, innovation, the need to take risks and the power of failure,” says Diana. “They both involve change, transformation and delivery of a product.” “Business and theatre are engaged in processes,” says Josie. “Through deadlines, people skills, organisation, research and development. They harness individual talent, yet require people to work as a team. Where a company needs to retain its clients, theatre needs to engage an audience. Where b usiness is concerned with the continuous professional development and life-long learning of its employees, successful theatre is based on the continuous development, training and the growth of its performers. At the heart of each are relationships with customers -sales and turnover and building relationships with audiences.”
In their research and increasing practical experience T4B sees a growing awareness in business that the Arts have much to offer – and that business has much to bring to the Arts. “The climate is one of enormous change,” says Diana. “People are awakening to the belief that business needs more than just to make profits, and that a more creatively empowered workforce is more motivated to contribute to company growth.” “We aim for shifts in perception,” says Josie. “We provide a safe environment in which people can take risks, to think and behave differently. Many people learn to play for the first time. It’s transformational work.”
Over the past yearT4B has forged an active relationship with the organisation, Arts and Business Southwest and have helped organise an ongoing series of symposia, workshops and networking events to bring creative arts facilitators together as a professional body and to gather feedback from businesses about their experiences working with arts based facilitators. Within her own research as HEFCE Business Fellow, Josie has organised a series of lunchtime discussion events at Dartington around ‘questions of values’ – how we value the work we do, how our personal values are reflected in our work and how we are re-examining our work in the light of new thinking around sustainability, spirituality and social and cultural change. In the light of its unfolding ‘Dartington Project’ Dartington may well be an ideal site for Theatre 4 Business as more and more companies are attracted to the ways in which ‘serious playing’ can maximise their performance.
T4B invite you to log onto their Website www.theatre4business.com for more information about the company and how they work.