create balance

 from survival to success...

As the Festivals of Edinburgh were reaching their respective finales over the last two weeks, richly deserved applause was heard throughout the city.

Despite the current cost of living crisis, the rail strikes, the impact of souring accommodation costs, it was a moment to acknowledge success in all areas... and celebrate a triumphal return.

With the prolonged impact of the pandemic now largely forgotten, is it at last, safe to plan ahead?

This issue of longer-term sustainability is not unique to festivals... it is now a key consideration across the wider culture sector.

So is it now the moment to think and act beyond the boundaries of ‘survival and recovery’ and ask this compelling question… Where do we go from here? 

This statement emerged as a prominent message on posters and bus-sides across Edinburgh throughout the festival.

The words were designed to support the campaign of the first ever female director of the Edinburgh International Festival, Nicola Benedetti.

Her first year has enjoyed huge and deserved success, but she also cited the impact of 15 years of declining investment by the city… provoking the question - Where do we go from here? 

Her words also have the sympathy of colleagues throughout the various city festivals.

The Fringe Society's Chief Executive Shona McCarthy whilst describing the last few weeks as “a return to a truly joyous fringe, which felt brave and energetic with a sense of ambition", also pointed out that Edinburgh’s festivals have been arduously and consistently campaigning for a re-think on public funding.

Antony Alderson, Artistic Director of the Pleasance, one of the biggest Fringe operators also described this year as totally joyous”  but added, ” this is a vast event with many moving parts” and sensibly suggested that "streamlining our communication on questions like this can be decidedly more productive, with a more collective and collaborative approach”.

He’s right. 

Going forward, there will still be a need for different voices representing the diverse needs of different groups in the sector, but also for one aligned voice to ensure more meaningful responses can be shaped to the bigger shared questions facing the industry.

Reflecting this, a new alliance has been formed that has pledged to work with the Fringe Society to secure the future of this truly remarkable global event.

So, where do we go from here is a good question and will hopefully seek the right attention and take full advantage of the experiences and learnings plus the ‘triumphant return’ , delivered by these passionate and dedicated leaders.

Interestingly one of the original members of Abba, 72-year-old Agnetha Fältskog, has just released her first single since the band retired, using the same words for her title.

So, these words are timely and would appear to capture the current zeitgeist.

But is this question on its own enough…or does it need more?

If you’re designing a question to be effective, then shaping and committing to the right question, must also be a submission to shaping and committing your own response, forward focus and energy.

A question that’s created to bring about change or take advantage of opportunity, is more effective when it's in reach of issues that are within your capability to act upon.

Of course, you can ask big questions that require big answers and then fire them up into the stars… but getting traction and moving forward may need something more tangible. And this is the right moment to find the best question. Because this is a moment that needs tangible answers.

Ok, so is there a better question, and how do we go about responding effectively to it? 

Firstly, you have to identify the position from which you’ll shape your response. To do that you have to be clear on who you are, what you do and why you do it. 

It’s now no longer about survival at any cost, there’s now space to consider how to keep progressively and sustainably moving forward in ways that enable us to grow and learn and allow us to protect and evolve the sector for current and future societies.

Do not question who you are, what you do and why you do it… indeed, this must stay solid and secure. 

This is your DNA. Any dilution or distraction here causes confusion internally for both you and your team and externally, with your audience.

Tim Sheader’s glorious Regent’s Park offering of Cages Aux Folles further endorses this, with its defining lyric ‘I am what I am’.

Your WHO, WHAT & WHY are central to your identity, brand and unique creative offer… and an invaluable guiding light when later posing and shaping a response to these big questions.

What we can’t control, but need to remain responsive to, is the current reality.

When asking and answering the big questions, we need to do so in the context of what’s happening around us, the external influences of health, wealth and war, rising costs, emerging technology, and shifting expectations. All facets of current reality must be considered as you comprehensively plan on HOW to succeed and move forward.

And there, at last, emerges the potentially better question…

How do we go from here?

It may seem obvious, but this simple balanced question allows you to use your identity and purpose  to help you adjust to the current reality and shape HOW you move forward, allowing you to plan ahead and evolve by focussing on what matters most.

By positioning this one simple question puts you in control of finding the necessary tangible answers and helps you create the balance you’ll need, beyond survival… to succeed and keep moving forward.

And it works every time… we’d love to talk to you more about it.

Is this the moment we think and act beyond the boundaries of ‘recovery’ and move 'from survival to success'

more balanced thinking