Professional Development Programme

Timescale: 1st August 2010 until 31st March 2011

The aim of the professional development programme is to support and develop Birmingham’s cultural workforce, to enable the delivery of high impact art interventions.  


The field of community and participatory arts has grown in recent years and is undertaken by arts organisations as well as individuals.  The broadening of the client base requires the freelance workforce to maintain and develop their skills to meet this breadth of demand and be aware of current issues and policies within the field.  

Hybrid has developed a varied training programme for artists which includes a range of sessions and opportunities for engagement.  In brief these are:

1.    Action learning sets to share challenges and find solutions

2.    Visits to arts organisations to learn more about who, what and how

3.    Panels/ Talks on themes such as health and community cohesion

4.    Café style conversations on project development, delivery and evaluation




Attached Files

Delivering the goods

The second round table event on 9 February 2011 focused on ‘project delivery’. I would strongly advise you read Bobby Tiwana's post as he offers some great advice.

During the session I facilitated discussions with three different groups about their experiences of delivering projects. Everyone talked about their experiences of delivering projects and each person identified things that went well during the delivery of the project, what didn't go so well and how people overcame the barriers to success.

One of the things that emerged during our discussions was the importance of maintaining good relationships between everyone involved in a project. In its simplest form this usually means the artist, the organisation and the participants.

People recognised the role that clear communication between all parties plays in maintaining the smooth running of a project and that as artists it is sometimes necessary that we take the lead in making sure that communication channels are open and as healthy as possible. However, we simply have to accept that organisations who are commissioning projects face multiple demands on their time and they are not always good at communicating what they actually mean by 'success' - and so it is often up to you as the creative practitioner to define it for them - which can be both a burden and a blessing.

I shared a strategy that I employ when things are unclear and communication begins to break down. I suggested that it is good to map out the project on a large sheet of paper - the way you would do a mind-map. In what ever way suits you best draw a diagram of everyone involved in the project and visualise how they relate to each other. Use this to help you identify any barriers that are getting in the way and then think of ways to overcome them. It's even better if you can do this with someone else as they can give you an objective viewpoint.

You will probably not resolve all of the problems but it might help you reflect on where YOU are in the project and hopefully give you ideas about how to achieve success.

Good luck with your creative ventures!

Project Delivery: where to start? Bobby Tiwana feeds back

The second round table event was held in Urban Coffee Company in Birmingham’s business district on 9 February 2011. This session focused on ‘project delivery’. Again, I was asked to facilitate from the perspective of working within arts organisations. There were more participants attending this time, and facilitators, and altogether more noise.

After a brief introduction to myself and Black Country Touring, an organisation with which I’ve worked regularly over the past 7-years I went on to my key considerations when delivering projects (within arts organisations). If new to project delivery I think it is useful to read about and look at a few models either to borrow from or for information. Whilst there is much published literature and free online resources on project delivery my personal considerations come down to the following:

1. What is the project’s aim? Be super clear of what you are trying to achieve and have clarity of your objectives. (What needs to be done, by whom and by when?) What is your role and responsibility? Often in my work I am responsible for, or lead on the main activities. There are times when I consult or problem solve with other members of the team on a one-to-one basis or in a group situation at a company meeting. Some administrative and technical tasks are delegated to others. When this happens it is still my responsibility to ensure that the task is completed. So, checking it’s done is vital.
If a project involves a partnership with another organisation it is worth having a Partnership Agreement including a breakdown of tasks and assigned responsibility for clarity. This will save much time and unnecessary difficult conversations later.
To summarise the first point, ‘planning documents’ of sorts are required to proceed. A table format works for me: the simplest should include the task, deadline and responsible person assigned to it.

2. Sequencing of actions: consider what needs to be done and breakdown into small tasks and arrange in a logical and desired chronological order. Some things will be dependent on others and will need to happen sequentially.

3. Monitor Progress: ensure you regularly monitor progress and allow enough time to adapt or adjust as necessary if you’re not achieving the desired outcomes. Allowing some flexibility will mean you are better placed deal with new and unexpected challenges.

4. Communication with stakeholders: often for me this includes: artists, participants, partners, funders and the media. Work out which methods and for what objectives work best for you. For example I would give participants a courtesy call a day or two before they’re required even though they will have been informed and agreed to the dates much earlier; and I would meet partners face-to-face intermittently where possible especially when discussing much business.

Complex projects: If a project is complex and with many stakeholders it may require a steering group to help manage the direction, to keep things in check and satisfy all the partners on board. This will require servicing by someone.

5. Email: whilst we could talk about the positives of email for a long time, it does also have its limitations it has the potential for misinterpretation as it can’t facilitate intonation and stress as in verbal communication. In my experience anything that is sensitive or has the potential to be mis-read ought not to be discussed solely in an email.

6. Monitoring Partners: in my experience it is worth keeping in contact with partners. Don’t assume they’re OK and getting on with it. Things happen: internal organisational politics, illness, changes to organisational/service structures. It is worth having a casual check-in on the phone. This is even more important with new partners.

7. Standards of quality: at Black Country Touring we want all users to have a ‘high quality’ experience. If this informs everything it results in conduct which is: professional, has integrity and is consistent. If we get this right it means stakeholders will come back for more: artists, participants, audience, partners, funders etc.

After this brief introduction and to open up the discussion and to hear of their key issues, I asked artists/participants present about their experience of delivering projects, their greatest challenges in project delivery and how they thought it could become easier.

Someone with very little experience asked me how I got started. This took me back down a long winding road. I first started managed a small project for Light House Media Centre in Wolverhampton in 1998. It involved co-ordinating video workshops as part of the Deaf Film and TV Festival. It was a small contract and I was provided with warm leads. I recall reading everything in an established project file to become informed about the Festival and the Deaf community. After this I felt equipped to proceed with the task. Projects are like building blocks. Since then projects have become larger and more complex with multi-agency partnerships, but it is what I did before that informs and gives confidence to the present and so on into the future.

For me it has been useful to read about Time Management and be exposed to other efficiency tools like SMART objectives. Some of these things resonate, others leave me cold. You have to identify what works for you and borrow from, and adapt other models as appropriate to develop your own style rather than trying to fit into something that may not suit you.

Bobby Tiwana
Freelance Producer (dance and theatre) and Project Manager (arts)

Driven by Curiosity

Like Bobby Tiwana I was one of the facilitators of the first Professional Development Programme Round Table event held at Apache’s Bar in October 2010. Each of the facilitators were considering different aspects that realted to the initiation and development of arts projects and I was asked to focus on working within unexpected places/ spaces/ partners.

The starting point for my discussion group was to talk openly about their practice and their personal motivations for making work. They all spoke very passionately about their work and I think everyone felt how good it is to share their experiences with their peers, other artists.

Although they had differing approaches, interests and concerns one of things that emerged that was common to all of them was talking about how their work was 'driven by their own curiosity'- their curiosity about the world, a personal exploration into their own subjectivity and experimenting with the materials available to them to express how they related to people, communities and the material world.

We talked about how important it was to harness this 'curiosity' in order to develop productive relationships with potential sponsors, patrons, commissioners and partners. If we want to make our creativity the centre of our professional life - the way we want to primarily earn a living - then we need to negotiate in a way that results in a 'win-win' for artist and commissioner and make 'smart' decisions.

One of the key learning point that came out of our lively discussion was the importance of being able to locate the common interest between oneself as a creative practitioner and the desires/demands of the commissioner. Easier said than done, but a skill that will get you a long way!

I'm really looking forward to the next round table event.

Trevor Pitt
Artist-Curator / founder of POD Projects /


PANEL PRESENTATION & AUDIENCE DISCUSSION, Monday 13th December 2010, 4.30 – 6.30pm, at Hybrid

Our second panel addresses the theme of working with young people and training.  

Refreshments will be provided.  

Speakers on the panel all worked on a project with young people who used the services at Lozells Youth Club.  The lead arts organisation is the very hip Punch, lead artist DJ extraordinaire RT and youth worker par excellence Abu Miah.  

The panel explores the thinking behind delivering youth focused creative projects, how to deliver work with young people, how to challenge existing frameworks and deliver key objectives, how do projects develop – how might you go about developing your own projects, and find innovative ways of doing work!  

The desired learning is that you, as artists/ project co-ordinators, can develop projects and produce high quality participatory work.   

BCC Professional Development Programme

Project Development was the theme of the first BCC (Birmingham City Council) Professional Development Programme Round Table event managed by Hybrid at Apache’s Bar last month.

Developing projects working within arts organisations is the strand that I facilitated using my own experience to illustrate and explore different ways to realise projects.

A starting point for the team (me and the organisations with which I work) is what interests us... and to dream! This is soon followed by how can we make this happen? What partnerships do we need to develop to realise this? Who would be interested in this work? What are their needs and motivations? Who would be interested in funding this work? It takes a fair bit of planning and development to get things off the ground.

The more ambitious the work the more partners are usually involved, each working to their own area of expertise. I describe successful partnerships as a type of marriage. They require respect, openness, trust, compromise and negotiation. They can be fluid and synergistic, or not...

When starting out partnerships may seem daunting. Talking to, and getting to know others helps. It is important to talk about your work and find out what others do. Your network of all the people you know in all walks of life is, I believe, the difference between having ideas and realising your ideas.

Bobby Tiwana
Freelance Producer (dance and theatre) and Project Manager (arts)