Half year updates

There are a lot of links in this post, but they might not show up in the theme. I recommend dowsing your cursor over the words and hoping for the best.

This time last year I wrote about taking six different courses in six months. Honestly, it almost finished me off and I do not recommend it. I tend to start the year in a panic and take on too much, then spend the summer recovering, then as autumn rolls round the panic sets in again as I realise I haven’t achieved all I’d hoped to in the year. Maybe you can identify with this delightful cycle.

Naturally, this year has seen similar over-commitment, exacerbated this time by literally adding illness to injury. It started in January. I fainted while walking down a staircase, resulting in a badly smashed knee that still isn’t right. Every bruise has a sort of greenish lining though, and while I was laid up recovering, I took the opportunity to totally do over my website LeilaJohnston.com. It’s now a portfolio site, and it does indeed seem to be driving work my way, so I recommend doing that, if you need to.

Since then, I’ve had various stresses and health problems, and am only beginning now to feel a bit better and get back to the gym etc. By the way,  over-committing, for me, is a fraction of what it seems to be for most people! I really do seem to have a low tolerance for everything. Lesson one is accepting that though, I reckon, and not holding oneself up against others’ expectations or standards.

Anyway, enough of the worthy stuff. Main work updates:

  • I’m 1.5 years into my 3-year, part-time contract at Site, and the monthly events I put together for them are providing a very welcome creative and networking outlet. The podcast is a recent addition to my job description, and one I’m thoroughly enjoying making. And the regular meetings I attend at the gallery are always interesting, too. We re-open, 3 times the size, in September.
  • Freelance contracts this year have ranged from the academic (the RCA, Oxford Brookes), to arts commissions and residencies (Derby Quad, Derby Silk Mill, the Panacea Society), and the media (BBC The Space, BBC Tomorrow’s World!) Some of this stuff is finished, some is ongoing, some has barely started.
  • I’ve spoken at a few things and have some more talks and MC gigs lined up for the coming months. I’ve also had quite a few paid-for meetings, which has been novel, including an interview at the Wellcome Trust for a major commission. Sadly, my co-inventor and I didn’t get it. But we made the top 5, which is sufficiently surprising, and got to see the inside of the ridiculously ostentatious Wellcome offices, in Euston. I could tell you stuff, but you would not believe me.

Other projects:

  • Don’t miss those mermaid aquariums.
  • I had my dark, uninsulated loft transformed into a work space, and I’m up there all the time now.
  • We’ve recorded a few Shift Run Stops this year, believe it or not, but Roo has been sitting on them like a 7 foot tall broody hen since, I think, January. I know, riiii? Take it up with him.
  • There’s also the Pony Pod – my friend Sarah and I recorded this one-off slightly drunk chat about MLP, a few months ago. Sarah used to have one hundred My Little Ponies. Go on, imagine it.

Podcast guesting:

Things I haven’t done, which I’m keen to get around to before the year is out. (Hey maybe we can do something together, mysterious reader?) –

  • My fascination with money and economics isn’t going anywhere, but in my current situation, there’s nowhere obvious to put it. In general, people I talk to about this sound a note of caution about me pursuing something that’s apparently so far from my current work-world. But hey, I did a degree in a subject that I didn’t have an A level in, and I did a Masters in a subject I didn’t do a degree in. My career went from editing glossy magazines to copywriting for a London agency, to a curating for a major gallery, 8 years. So if I’ve learned anything, it’s to never rule anything out.
  • More writing. Last year I was doing a tech/ideas column for Brandwatch and I loved that. More stuff like that please. It really helps me keep my hand in. (Can’t say I haven’t tried though… pitching emails, even when explicitly requested, sadly fall on deaf ears 90% of the time. Or at least, mine do.)
  • Games. I’m thinking about games again, very tentatively. 

Finally, it’s worth saying, if you saw my New Year’s post on here pledging to stop applying for funding and ‘opportunities’ – apart from that Wellcome Trust thing above, I’ve stuck to it. Pretty much everything I’ve got on this year has been through someone approaching me, or at least a conversation. Sorting out that ‘gambling addiction’ was the best thing I could have done, financially and psychologically.