A Year of Conversation

My role as cultural broker and now thought leader has found useful expression in what one good friend termed my Unlocking Ideas sessions, where I spend a lot of time listening to seasoned professionals looking for the wood among the trees. But then something entirely unplanned happened.

For a whole year, from May 2012 to May 2013, these professional encounters fell into a magical rhythm, where what the other half of one of these 28 Conversations described as “relaxed and slow curving”, took me and my anonymous interlocutors way beyond the ideas we were used to exploring in our more purposeful sessions.

What had emerged was an accidentally continuous series of wonderfully fascinating and very privileged Conversations with many different professionals that lasted a full twelve months before reaching the end of its natural life as discreetly as it had begun, the spell somehow broken as it faded away.

The following list, made up from my Twitter feeds of the time, contains all of them, and forms a natural list of contents. Each of these 140ch tweets could be expanded into a full post in due course but maybe I’ll just allow you to dream…


1. Leadership 130502
Today’s conversation is about taking a fresh look at leadership. Perhaps a dog that’s had it’s day?

2. The Female Academic 130504
Today’s conversation in Oxford with 60s friends on the fact that women academics are STILL not being given proper and equal recognition.

3. Absent Voices and Scattered Populations 130510
Today’s conversation on absent voices and scattered populations. From software platforms to learning to creativity to knowledge transfer.

4. Landscape 130627
Today’s conversation in & on landscape: literal or interior, is place a straitjacket, is it a space or a void, is 3D design or 2D art? Fun!

5. Mediating Heritage 130629
This morning’s conversation around the difficulty curators have mediating our heritage in tune with the energies in contemporary culture.

6. Whose Global Relations? 130703
This morning’s conversation on our creative entrepreneurs and how they have surged ahead of the cultural diplomats in global relations.

7. Divergence and Curriculum 130715
Today’s discussion re National Curriculum & Cultural Education Plan. No convergent system will support a sector that teaches divergence.

8. Asking for Money 130724
This afternoon’s conversation on the interface between arts organisation and donor, to up the ask and get the donor clearer on expectation

9. Delivering the Vision 130725
Today’s conversation on CICs, spider and starfish cultures, and the tension between marketing and finance when delivering the vision.

10. In/tangibles 130725E
This evening’s conversation on arts world links to the engineer and vice versa; and what one could teach the other about the in/tangible

11. Legal Entities 130726
Conversation today on the plurality of governance models the UK coalition govt is enabling both in education and in business. A good thing?

12. Riding Insolvency 130904
Today’s conversation on ways UK charity trustees can ride the insolvency wave other than a knee-jerk closure in favour of creditors

13. Objectivity in Documentary 130928E
Tonight’s conversation on objectivity in documentary film – with 3 levels of interpretation: the subjects, the viewers & the film editor?

14. Our Futures 130928M
Fascinating conversations this morning on our futures: capitalist, environmental and technological

15. Screening Documentaries 131003
Conversation today on ways of getting documentaries seen when blocked by the usual theatrical exhibition, festivals or TV acquisition teams

16. Of Elders and Catalysts 131007
Tonight’s conversation on elders nominated for their wisdom, or the generous catalyst, as better models of leadership for our current times

17. The Impacts of Social Media 131010
Today’s conversation on social media impacts: 2nd screen, revival of decent journalism, highlighting poor under-40s provision in linear TV news

18. Tapping Baby Boomer Wealth 131112
Today’s conversation: we Baby Boomers lock up 80% of personal wealth. Can UK Community Foundations help capture this in line with BB values?

19. The Value Proposition of the Student 131113
Afternoon’s conversation on the value proposition of the student: time to assert what value they will be adding to whom and will anyone pay?

20. The Diplomats’ Citizen-blindness 131120
Yesterday’s conversation on the blindness of cultural diplomats to the cultural relation actions of their social media or city state citizens

21. The Dysfunctional Administration 131121
Wednesday’s conversation on our dysfunctional administrations: arrogant of status and surrounded by ‘ignorant citizens & meddling politicians

22. Shifting the Gender Balance 131128
Yesterday’s conversation on shifting gender balance. Men! start taking responsibility, challenge our peers, let women mentor our youths

23. Killing Creativity with Kindness 131217
Today’s conversation on how the delivery of public money as a controlling subsidy has diminished our capacity for entrepreneurial creativity

24. Invisibility 140110
Useful distinction: is invisibility one up from absence? (implicating a witness, shifting neutral to political)

25. Going Independent 140127
Today’s conversation on going independent: do a skills audit, hone your network, say yes to every offer, keep your nerve in year 2, redefine

26. Essential Number Two 140226
Tonight’s conversation on the pleasures of being a good number two. No-one can lead without the discreet first follower who makes it happen!

27. Mobility and Participation 140327
Today’s conversation on the price the déclassé have paid for social mobility and how “community” has never meant “enabling participation”.

28. The Natural 140513
Sunday’s conversation: what is natural? Or is it just the accident in design, the void in place, the flip side of nurture, the creativity in the formula?

I must admit that I find it mildly irritating that Simon Anholt cornered the concept of ‘conversazione’ well before I had time to write up this series of conversations. But hey, the man’s got form and we did share a platform once… yet his conversations are nothing like these were, nah!

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