The Arts of Living and Dying

I had a very interesting conversation with one of our finest young theatre artists at the start of the week. We disagreed on dying. I would suggest that everything Рincluding the organisations that we build (commercial and cultural) have a life cycle (as opposed to a trajectory with no end point) We struggle, we grow, we peak, we decline and we die. Culturally, we are not good at accepting this and certainly not good at talking about it. The real problem  is that when an organisation or a talent becomes completely dependent on funding, and consequently the funding body becomes dependent on the continued existence of the organisation/talent in its current form to justify their own existence we end up with zombies: unstoppable, insatiable, and deathly.

There’s nothing wrong with dying. We need to accept that the vision behind an organisation is time bound. It will succeed at some point, and at that point it must be replaced, re-imagined. If the infrastructure of the organisation is capable of supporting the new vision then great, if not then it too needs to be replaced.

Apple is always a great example. They’ve been around for most of my working life. But what is Apple? They used to make computers and very expensive computer peripherals. Then they made music players, then they redefined the entire music industry, then they made phones. now they’re designing cars. What is apple? (Simon Sinek is worth watching on this).

I would suggest that every creative career, every cultural organisation should be prepared to die. Again and again. To admit that its core vision has been realised (or not realised) that its mission has run its course. To shut its doors (literally and metaphorically) and start the exciting process of re-invention. Think of the freedom in that.

As my 17 year old daughter said recently: “Just because you have one life doesn’t mean you have to live it one way”.


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