The reason I've haven't blogged for year is that I've been pouring any spare time I've had into the application and interview process for Collaborative 3D3 Studentship Award for a practice based PhD in partnership with UWE and Arnolfini. In April I was offered the post. Apart from a couple of meetings this July, I won't begin the PhD in earnest until October. In May I finished my freelance role with Liz Clarke. Sensing these changes will place new and challenging demands on me as a practitioner and parent, I also applied for and accepted a place on Extend, a leadership training course for those working in the arts.
This is my moment to step up.
So I'm nesting - in the way you do when you are expecting. My rational, organised self has been telling the rest of me that it's because I need to get organised and improve the way the house functions - so as a family we can manage our busy lives in a much more conducive space. The physical process of re-configuring cupboards, putting up shelves, creating storage solutions, filling in holes and giving rooms a fresh lick of paint mirrors the intellectual process of applying for a PhD. I've had to think carefully about my previous practice, analyse what I have to offer and how this opportunity will open up future potential. A lot like home improvements.
I'm making myself again and again. Just like Alice Walker.
This is one of those moments where I acutely feel ever tremor and sensation of change and time itself slows down. I remember feeling like this; just after leaving art college, meeting my partner, gazing out to sea on holiday and at milestones in our children's development.
I'm in an intoxicating place, a hiatus, the pause before a dramatic drop or a heady moment of vertigo. It's a rich, fecund, positive and powerful place.
Over the next few months I will be unpacking, piecing together and making sense inter-related questions including;
What is leadership?
How is leadership relevant to my PhD?
How is leadership relevant to the position I find myself in?
What tricky situations, encounters and questions could the PhD raise?
How can I balance the needs of my family with the demands of a PhD?
How can I still be present for my partner, children and parents?
Can we afford a loft conversion and new bathroom?
What decisions do we need to make in this process?
How can I resolve my youngest son's congestion?
How can I enable my eldest son to manage his worries?
What relationships do I want to establish between my advisers, the University and art institution?
How does parenting, home making, undertaking a PhD, leadership connect and interweave with my previous practice?
How can continue threads of my previous practice into the future?
How can I give back?
Who, what and how can I enable? How can I collaborate?
What kind of leader could I be?
What or whom will I lead? What impact could I have?
What grit can I work with to create pearls?
I've been tentatively beginning to read around leadership by browsing through the Extend Leadership Programme Resource List. Whilst reading Jennifer McDerra's 'Diary of a Clore Fellow: Newcastle, New York, New Ways of Belonging', I was reminded to the importance of having time and space to stop and I also discovered Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker. Jennifer encountered a shop sign quoting Audre Lorde whilst walking through New York. The book this quote is taken from is a compilation of letters and notes from two poets exchanging advice and support. The quote resonated with me immediately. I am at that point of terror, justification, distraction and unlocking.
I am surrounded by so many creative, courageous, daring, trail blazing and audacious women who inspire me deeply. Some I have worked with closely, others I've barely met. Whilst I am working in the sheltered space of my home I am connected to world through social media. These women remind me of how important it is for us to lead the way in gender equality in the arts. I am so mindful of my privileged position as a white woman. Equality is such an easy word to say but is a value we have to live.
On Monday 25th June I will climb into Carrie Creamer's car and she will drive us up to Leeds for the first Extend residential. And so my process of preparation and change continues.