Why I don’t want to talk about Hack Circus yet (but I will say this)

HackCircusFirstContactHaven’t blogged for ages!

I’ve been a bit busy. A few things have happened. We made an amazing event and a new issue of the magazine, then I went to Greece for two weeks.

More interesting, maybe, is what didn’t happen. I bailed on a lot of events, partly because I got the distinct impression I was filling space in the background behind the big seat-filling (white, male) names, partly (often mainly) because I had to focus on my fourth Hack Circus show, and partly because I didn’t feel the communities involved were quite in line with my stuff. I keep wondering about writing more about this but increasingly can’t see the point. I’ll just wind myself up, piss people off, and potentially (unnecessarily) make bad friends. There’s a really interesting backlash against certain kinds of events and conferences happening at the moment, and without putting too fine a point on it, it’s not individuals that are the problem, really, but ‘the system’.

To be honest, I don’t feel like talking at the moment. I’ve had stuff to say at various points, but right now I have stuff to DO, and am enjoying that.

Having said that, I did speak at a thing today. I talked to recipients of something called the Digital R&D fund in Manchester. Inevitably, I felt like I came from a different planet to the proper cultural institution executives, but a lot of people said afterwards they found it interesting and I made some good connections. Writing this on the train back from Manchester (Friday 10th) to upload, probably Saturday 11th…

Particularly since the last event, people who have noticed I’m doing something *different* have been asking when I’m going to write up my ‘learnings’ and saying things about ‘measurable’ and ‘metrics’. It’s another reminder that Hack Circus doesn’t really have a natural home. I don’t know if you can do metrics on this kind of thing. Almost feels a bit like theatre producers being asked to write up specific things their staff and audience got out of it, to drive forward ‘innovation’ or whatever. A strange concept to me, outside of it all, but I do understand how it’s all connected to proof, funding etc, for the arts world. Honestly, I think innovation takes a really long time to be understood as such in a meaningful way, and I’d rather be on the coalface, too close to comment, than a few removes away.

So it feels like I’m probably not, right now, the right person to be talking about what it all means, what we’re all learning, where it’s all going, etc. Maybe at some point I will write about my ‘learnings’, if I come up with some great theory. Ha, that won’t be a dangerous thing to do, at all! But in the meantime, I’m just not qualified enough. I haven’t been doing it long enough. I don’t know if I’ll ever be qualified. There are enough people like me with to many reckons and not enough experience who will happily share their speculation about where everything is going, and plenty of media outlets to lap those ideas up. I’m actually quite enjoying not feeding an economy of soundbites and handwaving, and just getting on with stuff that’s demonstrably interesting and where I can simply point to the ripples spreading out around it and say, well, something’s working.

Although I suppose one thing I do want to say is: I’ve learned – to my astonishment – that people collaborate naturally when they’re enjoying themselves. And if you can’t pay, then you end up with people who aren’t motivated by money. In other words, if you don’t offer sacks of cash, you find yourself working with exactly the kinds of people who most deserve to be paid – really dedicated, interesting people, who ought to be paid huge amounts for dedicating massive amounts of their lives to their instinctive calling.

Speaking of which, people who get into things like Hack Circus get really into them. The last edition was a tipping point; the audience and contributors made cross stitched badges and headbands and knitted mittens without me asking. All the speakers collaborated with each other to make sure everything would fit together. Everyone went way beyond the call of duty, and everyone involved just really wanted it to happen, and wanted it to be brilliant. Can you imagine how good that makes me feel?!

One thing I do need is a long-term vision. As you may well have noticed, I can’t see past the end of my nose. It’s great for a lot of things but increasingly, what Hack Circus needs is a big plan. In these experimental early days it’s OK, I suppose, to see what sort of thing it’s becoming and feel our way forward; to see who gets it and where there might be a bit of money. But I think we will run out of goodwill time soon. I used to talk a lot about Making Things Fast to get out of creative ruts and kickstart your projects, but I’m realising you can’t do everything fast. People have lives and commitments. Festivals come up in 12-16 months time which might be perfect for the theme. You can fly from one issue to the next doing what feels right for a while, putting on a new show every three months, but none of us are getting any younger. Your (my) blood pressure will only hold out so long.

It’s still a show though. I have to be careful not to make sure there are always, always surprises for everyone involved, and not spoil the magic for myself.

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