Last night Some Am-Dram Saved My Life

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Creative Industries, Mental Health, Theatre

I know that this blog is primarily about how to apply business skills to your Arts Business, but I will from time to time bring mental health to the forefront of discussion because I think it should be openly discussed and it’s an important conversation.

The Arts Industry is rife with people who struggle with their mental health and (although I will admit that I have no scientific research behind this) I would argue that there are more individuals battling with invisible illnesses like anxiety and depression in this industry than in any other.

Sometimes working in the arts feels like a constant uphill climb.  We are encouraged to go out there and live our dreams, but we are never told how hard it is going to be.  The hours are long and the pay is often low.  Environments can be stressful, and experiences can bend you to complete breaking point.

 

Now please don’t get me wrong:

 

I love the arts!

 

And however much there are times I want to pack it all in and runaway forever Lady Theatre keeps dragging me back!  There is nothing like the creative industry.  The rush, the excitement and the passion!

 

A few years ago (without going into too much detail) both my personal and professional life began to crumble and I started to fall apart.  I went on long term sick leave with the diagnosis of depression and anxiety and vowed never to work in the arts industry again.

After a year of struggling I couldn’t even bring myself to open my laptop and the idea of searching for a new career made me feel physically sick but I knew I needed to do something, if only to appease my friends and family to show them that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

A neighbour had told me about a charity panto that would be taking place in February called: ‘Goldilocks and the Three Martians’.  

“They always need volunteers to help with props and set” I was told.  She passed on my details and found out the rehearsal times for me.

So one Friday, when I was having a good day, I decided to push myself to attend a rehearsal.  I was instantly introduced to the Head of Props who immediately gave me a copy of the script, talked me through all the things which needed making and invited me for a meal to meet the rest of the crew.

I went, I chatted. I was instantly enveloped into a family of different personalities who had one key thing in common: they LOVE theatre.

Now, a year later, I am the official stage manager of this year’s panto: ‘Sinbad goes Down Under’ and I have been involved in crewing, building and propping the entire amateur dramatics programme in the Solihull Area. 

More importantly, I have learnt how to manage my depression and I have remembered why I fell in love with the arts industry.

I used to be quite the cynic about amateur dramatics.  Basically, I was a bit of a snob.  I felt like there was a strong divide between “professional theatre” and “amateur theatre”.  To a point it is instilled in you at arts school that you are somehow better than that, above it.

But there is something beautiful about amateur dramatics though.  It is pure and innocent.  There is none of the economic politics.  Everyone is there because they love what there doing, whether that is onstage or off.  They have become an immediate community of likeminded friends. 

 

And they have reignited my desire for this industry and helped me find my way in this beautiful life. 

 

If ever you’re feeling lost in what is often an overwhelming world, I implore you to seek out the hobbyists in your industry!  They may not be the most professional, the most innovative or have the highest production values but none of that matters!  They are the most positive and passionate groups and they just might relight your fire.

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10 Must Have Skills to Smash Your Admin: Part 1

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Administration, Business Skills

We all know the worst part of running any company in the creative industries is the boring paperwork.  Sometimes we get completely swamped with the ‘business’ side of activities that it leaves little or even no room for the fun parts!

 

It is therefore important to know the key skills necessary to smash out your admin tasks or (if you’re lucky enough) to hire the perfect administrative assistant to smash out your admin quickly and efficiently!

 

  1. Great Communication Skills

This seems pretty obvious, I know, but nowadays you need to be literate in all kinds of methods of communications: face to face, email to messenger, text to WhatsApp, phone to facetime… nowadays there are hundreds of different ways to approach customers, clients and colleagues.

Not only do you need to know how to use all of these platforms, but you also have to be able to deduce the appropriate manner for each different medium.  For example, Messenger, Text and Whatsapp generally have a more relaxed and casual tonality whereas email is generally more like a letter form.  These tend to be longer and full of more professional sounding vocab.

Great Communicators also tend to be great readers of people.  In a very short amount of time they can deduce how to speak to someone in an appropriate manner whether this is matey and approachable or professional.  There is often a fine line in the creative industries so be sure and, if in doubt, air on the side of professionality.

 

  1. Time Management

A good administrator is an excellent timekeeper.  I often find it useful to keep timetables which are designed so that I can use my time in the most efficient manner.

A great administrator also has the inherent ability to gauge the weight of certain tasks and prioritise them appropriately in order to get the most pressing tasks completed first.

An unbelievable administrator makes you think that they have all the time in the world even when they are the busiest ever.  That calmness can be infectious especially when there are lots of deadlines to meet.

 

  1. Microsoft Office (and their Apple Equivalents)

Every job you ever work in, whatever industry, wherever it is, will almost certainly require you using Microsoft Office (or the similar mac programmes like Pages, Numbers or Google Docs).

It never ceases to blow my mind how many job apps request this as a must have requirement in job application because I am of the opinion that if you don’t know the basics of Word, Excel and PowerPoint then where the hell have you been?! It’s been around since 1995! Have you been living in a box!

To give some clarity: that’s nearly a quarter of a century.  If you haven’t tried to learn how to copy and paste by now there is no hope for you!  It’s like living in France for 25 years without learning how to say ‘Bonjour’.

No more excuses!  If you don’t know how, ask Google and if you need visual guidance YouTube it!

 

  1. Problem Solving Abilities

I love problem solving!  Whether it’s that buzz of on the spot quick fix results or the longer term negotiating, searching for an answer until you find one that is just right, there is a real rush that runs alongside finding the perfect solution to a problem.

How can you be a great problem solver?  You need to be able to spot the problems, find solutions, pick the best one and most importantly apply your strategy then evaluate it to assess if it has worked.

Sometimes you have to perform all of these almost instinctively in a matter of seconds. I once, in a moment of genius and madness, played the part of the Magic Mirror in a pantomime of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ when we had a technical problem. I was the Deputy Stage Manager but safe to say I was an awesome Understudy.  Although in moments (especially like that) it is partially instinctive, it is definitely something that can be learnt and gets easier the more you do it.

 

  1. A ‘To Do’ List

Learn to love a list!

Lists have some real benefits in the admin world:

  • You don’t forget things – carry a notebook round, jot it down in your phone, whack it on a post it, whenever and wherever it pops into your head!  Then compile it into a list later! And never forget anything again.
  • Think of the happiness – every time you cross something off a list you get a tiny kick of dopamine.  That little burst of excitement drives you on to check off the next thing, so however big or small write it down so you can cross it off.
  • Reward yourself – whether this is something as minor as the satisfactory sound made by Swipes or the way that Trello turns green or the physical action of checking something off a handwritten list or ripping a page out your list book it is unbelievably satisfying.  And our brain finds them encouraging pushing us onto achieve even more!
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APP OF THE WEEK: Ravelry

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in App of the Week, Networking, Social Media
Name Ravelry
Product Description So, technically not an app but a great online community designed especially for crafters!
Availability Only Available through your browser at https://www.ravelry.com/
Key Features ·         A way for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, and dyers to find like-minded folk!

·         Stay up to date with the latest yarns, tools and projects

·         Free and paid for patterns available to download.  You can use outright or as inspiration.

·         User based content from similar hobbyists

·         Meet and stay in touch with people from all over the world

·         Find different themed groups to suit any crafters needs

·         Upload your projects in an online notebook to share what you’re working on and make your patterns available online.

·         Create an advertising account with specific craft products or services and know you’re directly reaching your target audience!

Prices and Plans FREE!

Think of it like Facebook but for material makers!

Biggest Pro The instant community you find at the mere click of a button!  If you’re a designer or maker, or even a specialist product developer for the craft sector then you’re bound to find friends through Ravelry.
Biggest Con They don’t have any apps currently available for direct access from your phone or tablet but it’s easy enough to log in from your browser.  They also have a page that gives you a list of recommended apps here. https://www.ravelry.com/about/apps

 

Do you love Ravelry? Tell us all about your Ravelry experiences in the comments!

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The Escape Room Evolved: ‘Stab in the Dark’

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Creative Industries, Entertainment, Theatre

It is always important to keep up with the latest trends in any industry and in recent years the entertainments world had been taken over by Escape Rooms.

If you don’t know what an escape room is basically where have you been?  There are hundreds, if not thousands of these up and down the country.

The trend began in the Japan and the concept is simple: get “locked” in a room must solve a series of puzzles to escape.

These come in all shapes and sizes, at a variety of prices and in any possible theme imaginable!  Great for team building activities or just fun nights out with a group of mates they are generally popular little money spinners!

 

So, what happens when you take these to the next level?

Enter Show Up Productions.

 

From 1st October 2019 Show Up Productions will be launching the previews of their ‘Immersive Crime Scene Experience: Stab in the Dark’

Young Essex based entrepreneur Rachel Dingle has taken the concept of the escape room and turned it on its head:

 

It’s 1995. There has been a murder in a prestigious fashion store. You have been called in by the local police to help the investigation.

Spend an hour in the crime scene looking for clues and collecting evidence.

Take your findings to the police station where you can submit evidence for forensic analysis, speak to witnesses, and eliminate possible suspects.

Can you solve the case?!

 

This isn’t about speed.  It is experimenting with the concept that guests are specialist detectives brought into investigate and solve a murder with live, talented, multirole-playing actors to assist you on your journey.

This is a completely immersive, interactive event but, more to the point, by playing on the ever growing and continually popular Escape Room market Rachel has developed a completely unique theatrical experience.

If you’re in the Southend-on-Sea area go and check it out!  This is one not to be missed! Get your tickets HERE.

 

But could your company jump onboard the Escape Room train?

There are loads of ways you could play with the general concept of the Escape Room that would encourage a new audience to get involved with your arts organisation so put those thinking caps on.

Not only do these not have to break the bank but they could also be great money spinners and raise your profile:

  • KnowEscape currently have somewhat of a monopoly on the portable escape room.  Their travelling Escape Bus covers everything from personal parties to professional events across the UK.
  • Similarly, container entertainment has been growing over the last few years (meaning shows that are built into recycled lorry containers).  Darkfield do great things with containers, and although I know this isn’t strictly speaking an escape room, they are a fantastic example in simplistic theming and concept that can easily be toured.  They use surround soundscapes through headphones in the pitch black utilising your different senses to create horror genre environments.
  • Museums and Galleries are a great place to experiment with the Escape Room.  They have the existing space available to play with performative experiences and are generally only open during the day so contemplate evening openings in limited spaces to attract that 9 to 5, Monday to Friday working crowd in midweek!
  • Already running an escape room?  Have you thought about kid-friendly rooms, shorter in length and easier to solve.  You could run these in your existing rooms during half terms and holidays to boost those sales and increase your audience?  Doing this may even inspire the parents and guardians to come back and try these escape rooms for themselves!
  • Hit up the corporate market by expanding your escape room into full day experiences.  Companies love a team building daily excursion!  You could even incorporate some of the immersive aspects Show Up have thought about in order to expand!
  • Don’t have a venue? No problem, think about developing ‘escape cities’ or ‘parks’.  Online treasure hunts are growing and their biggest pro is that walking round a city is free! Remember though: this isn’t quite the same if you’re running tours or public treasure hunts as there is a certain amount of red tape that needs cutting and permission that needs gaining!

And this is only spin offs for escape rooms!  Every week brings a new fashion, so keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest trends and think about how you could use these in your organisation!

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What’s the Difference Between Categories and Tags?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Administration, Blogs, Websites

This is one of the first questions I asked myself when starting my blog through WordPress.  When you add a blog to your website you will probably notice the options to add both categories and tags to your posts, but what exactly does this mean and why do you need them?

 

Categories and Tags are basically administration techniques to ensure your posts are properly filed on your website.

There are 2 main reasons for doing this:

  1. It makes your posts easier to find when a reader is looking for a specific topic area which basically means that your users can interact with your website more straightforwardly.
  2. It can work towards improving your SEO.

 

But what exactly are they?

 

What is a Category?

A category is basically a wide-ranging subject heading for posts.  These display topics which help explain to your readers the subject of your blog post.  Think of it like a kind of index page: just click on the theme and it will take you to the relevant pages. Try to limit these to 2/3 per post.

You can also create subcategories within categories.  Don’t get carried away here!  Things like Artist Names and Play Titles keep as tags.  Always remember that the purpose of a category is to make your website navigable.  So, if you are running a blog for a Shakespearean Theatre Company you might have ‘Shakespeare Plays’ as a main category then ‘Histories’, ‘Tragedies’ and ‘Comedies’ as Subcategories.

 

What is a Tag?

Tags get into the nitty gritty.  You can use these to really get the detail in there.  Continuing with the example above your tags may specify things like play titles (‘Twelfth Night’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘Hamlet’, etc.) or Actors (‘David Tennant’, ‘Jodie Whittaker’, ‘Christopher Eccleston’ etc.)

 

Things to Remember

  • You have to give your posts at least one category.  If you don’t then it will be filed under the ‘Uncategorized’ Category.  Don’t forget you can always rename this category to something like ‘Other’ or ‘Random’.
  • If you custom your blog posts URL then you can build your categories or tags into the web address for each post.  Here at The Arts Business we custom our blog post URL to include both the title of each post and the lead category whereas you could include the tags as well or instead.  This will help with your SEO.
  • Even though your tags are more specific you still want to limit them to a point.  Remember both tags and categories are primarily there to make you website easier to navigate for the user so you don’t want to end up with thousands of tags to traipse through.  Keep it in the hundreds.  Every few months you can go through and edit these to ensure they remain limited or simply have a range you stick to.

 

And there you have it!  Easy when you know how.

If you have any advice about Tags and Categories we would love you to share this in the comments below!

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APP OF THE WEEK: 9 Grid for Instagram

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in App of the Week, Social Media
Name 9 Grid for Instagram
Product Description Create beautiful Instagram feeds without photoshop by easily cropping your images into 3×1, 3×2 and 3×3 sections to upload jigsaw grids to your Instagram in the right order every time.
Availability Only Available on Android through the Google Play Store. Similar app ‘Grids’ is available through Apple Store and on Desktop.
Key Features In addition to those mentioned above features include:

·         Numerous combinations of arranging your images on Instagram

·         HD resolution for cut images

·         Saving images to your phone or SD card

·         Adding any coloured text to your image

·         Adding emojis and stickers to your image

·         Giving you a numerical order to upload your images on Instagram to get the desired effect looking good.

·         Uploading your images directly to Instagram into both your feed and direct messaging.

Prices and Plans Free! Although you do have to cope with adverts which are inbuilt into the app and can be a bit annoying but again, it’s FREE!  So, just get on with it!
Biggest Pro It is so easy to use and (so long as you upload your images in a minimum quality of 3240px x 3240px when creating a 3×3 Grid) you get great quality results without the faff!
Biggest Con It is only available on Android.  As mentioned above there are different apps available on Apple.

 

There are plenty of other apps out there which also help you achieve this effect so if you use any others to create Jigsaw Grids, tell us about them in the comments!

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How Theatre can Inspire Revolution: ‘First Time’

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Promotion, Start Ups, Theatre

Theatre has a unique ability to inspire audiences.  It can work particularly well when raising awareness about charitable causes.

 

Well, recent winner of a Best Show of the Fringe award from The Stage Nathaniel Hall does just that with his new one man show ‘First Time’ in collaboration with Dibby Theatre.

This autobiographical play explains how Nathaniel contracted HIV from his first sexual partner.  He cleverly uses a variety of storytelling techniques to portray the emotional rollercoaster he had been on from when he first received the news through his journey of coming to terms with his diagnosis.

 

A self-proclaimed activist Manchester based Nathanial aims to speak out for and with those who have previously been unheard or ignored.

 

It is a combination of his immense bravery in telling his own unique story, his natural ability to inspire others to come out and speak openly about their own experiences with HIV and his incredible fundraising drive to work alongside locally based HIV charities offering workshops and talks that have led to some unbelievable (and well deserved) National Press Coverage.

 

This has included editorials in AttitudeBuzzfeed, and BBC News.

 

In fact, flicking down his press page is basically like the perfect lesson in who to contact when developing a press release list for a show like this: the national news platforms, the local reviewers and papers, the LGBT community and theatre-based media companies across the UK.

 

What is particularly special about Nathaniel’s show is how in talking about his diagnosis he has begun the healing process of his mental health and finally he is looking forward to the future. He has used his story to encourage a revolution.

 

You can take inspiration from Nathaniel when developing your own work.

  • Could you get involved with charities that are relevant to the work you’re producing?  This could open up funding opportunities for your own show and help boost donations to the charities you are supporting.

o   ‘First Time’ has run after show parties to raise money for local HIV charities

  • Could you offer specialist workshops or talks to help others learn from the themes in your work?  Could you contribute to the community alongside your performance to help spread your message and could increase your ticket sales.

o   ‘First Time’ has run post show discussions about Rapid HIV Testing.

  • Could you use your work to raise awareness of and openly campaign for an important cause? If you found communities that would be helped with your work this could not only mean sponsorship for your performance but also opens new marketing outlets so that your show is reaching the right audiences.

o   ‘First Time’ aims to erase the stigma around HIV and campaigning for the UN Goal of zero new HIV transmissions by 2030.

 

We would love to hear about any work you’ve done like this.  Let us know in the comments!

 

Nathaniel J. Hall and Dibby Theatre will be touring ‘First Time’ soon so keep your eyes peeled on their website here to check out when where you can see this remarkable show.

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How to Manage your Photos

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Administration, Business Skills

A dull as subject which I have jazzed up with this Snazzy Infographic:

 

 

Why bother?

 

  • I’m sure all of you freelancers have been into an office you don’t know and logged onto the desktop to find a completely random file management system in place (or none at all)! So overhaul your administration and filing starting with your photo management.
  • In the world of constantly producing social media content we want to have millions of photos of various events and everyday happenings of what’s going on at our company to add some variety! Wouldn’t it be great if they were super easy to find?
  • When all of your pictures are saved in ‘My Photos’ and have file names DSC000001-DSC999999 it is impossible to know what your looking for unless you spend a solid few hours of your life waiting for thumbnails to load and then flicking through them.
  • The above technique is a universal way to file your images which will only take you slightly longer to implement when uploading images and save you hours in the future.

 

For more information on making the file naming process even easier why not check out our APP OF THE WEEK this week: Adobe Bridge

 

I can’t promise anything, but if you love organisation, you mind even have fun!

 

Do you have any admin advice or queries, let us know in the comments below.

 

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APP OF THE WEEK: ADOBE BRIDGE

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Administration, Business Skills
Name Adobe Bridge
Product Description A companion product to Adobe Photoshop designed for file management and cataloguing your digital photo collection
Availability Through Browser at https://creativecloud.adobe.com/apps/download/bridge
Key Features A Digital Assets Management (DAM) or Desktop Media Browser Programme allowing you store and sort your images professionally and easily on your desktop or laptop computer:

·         Highlight your favourite photos and hide the ones you don’t like as much

·         Add keywords to the metadata (basically background digital copy) of your photos to easily find the perfect image you need on search and improve your SEO if you upload your images online.

·         Upload your images directly through Bridge to have them automatically renamed to match your filing system.

·         Add Star ratings 1-5 to your images

·         Use the filter system to search through your images

·         Creating Collections (kind of like music playlists) to regroup your photos into different albums without creating doubles on your hard drive.

·         Preview your images without having to open them in another programme through numerous different ways.

·         Completely customisable workspace/dashboard so you can prioritise quick access to the features and files you use the most

Prices and Plans It is completely free regardless of whether you purchase the rest of the Creative Cloud from Adobe.
Biggest Pro It’s quick and easy freeing up a massive amount of time in the long run, making it easier to track your existing images.  It lowers the chance of losing or accidently deleting images.
Biggest Con At present they don’t have any ability to access the app from your phone which is where most people take majority of their pictures so their isn’t really an option to file your images on the go from your mobile.

 

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The Evolution of Scottish Tourism

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Marketing, Museums, Publicity

The National Museum of Scotland boasts exhibits from all over the world including the only place you can see an Ancient Mummy outside of Egypt, limestone sculptures from Ancient Assyria and a dodo from Mauritius.  But what was one of the major complaints I received from tourists back when I worked as an Edinburgh Tour Guide?  It isn’t Scottish enough!

 

Crazy, right?!

 

So, what does the National Museum of Scotland do to combat this?  Well every couple of years, over the summer, which is peak season for tourism, they put on an exhibition that is all about Scotland.

 

And this year they have really hit the nail on the head with their latest paid entry exhibition: ‘Wild and Majestic’ which is about the history of the Scottish tourism industry.

 

It explores how the Romantic Movement during the 18th and 19th century, including poets like Wordsworth or Byron and painters like Knox, captured the imaginations of the world and so the idealised depiction of Scotland was born.

 

Through both artistic perception and real artefacts, the National Museum of Scotland differentiates between what the real Scotland is and the glamorised vision spread worldwide throughout history.  In particular, it explores the monarchy of the UK focusing on both George IV’s royal visit and Queen Victoria’s fascination with the Highlands leading to her eventual purchase of Balmoral castle.

 

The development of Balmoral gives an interesting insight into the overall development of Scotland to keep up with the surge of tourism.  The rural area, which had been untouched for centuries, was now being – somewhat begrudgingly- taken over by the upper classes.  This led to the development of the travel networks and buildings all over the Highlands.  It tells us that in order to preserve the history that attracts visitors, we must also be prepared to evolve.

 

Another brilliant move the National Museum of Scotland has made is to pair up with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig College on Skye, which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).  Together they wrote copy and content for the displays which were then translated into Gaelic as well as discussing the impact that the language and culture have had on Scotland’s evolution.  This aspect will not only encourage those from the North to experience the Museum but should also appeal to specialist societies and charities looking to preserve this ancient language.

 

In short, the travellers who come to Edinburgh can see their perfect and stereotyped vision of Scotland: everything from Tartan to Bagpipes, whereas the locals can see how Scotland was (and still is) essentially rebranded for the sake of the tourism industry.  An insightful way to make the exhibition accessible to all.

 

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