About a year ago, my friend Gina and I sat down over a mulled wine or two to brainstorm the theme of the arts-based workshops we wanted to create. Our initial ideas circled around bringing the creative arts to those less fortunate then us: the sick or homeless, for example. We had to be seen making a difference; to be giving to people in need. Otherwise, what was the point?
For most of my career, I've struggled with the value of what I do. I'm not curing disease or saving lives. I compose the music for horror movies and write books about ghosts and pirates. My work has always felt a little selfish. Designing workshops to help the less fortunate felt like an obligation; a way to validate what I've chosen to spend my life doing.
But obligation is never a good place to create from. So instead, we did this: invited a group of our artistic friends to the pub. Around the table was an incredible mix of film-makers, actors, writers, dancers and designers, all in different stages of their careers. The idea was to explore the concept of "barn-raising"- the pooling of knowledge and contacts in order to help people make the connections they need to advance their careers.
I told each of our friends to come with a project to discuss; either something they were currently working on, or, if they didn't have a work in progress, a fictitious one we could discuss in order to see if the barn-raising concept would provide them with the connections they (fictitiously) needed.
"How many of you have a real project?" I asked.
Okay. Just make one up.
And then this amazing group of artists began to speak. Out came stories of films in production, plays being written, plans to create a whole freakin theatre company... It turns out each of my friends did have a project on the go; they just needed a supportive environment in which to discuss it.
One by one, we presented our projects and asked for the things we needed. A rehearsal space? The email address of an animator? Someone with a knowledge of web design? Whatever each person wanted, we were able to pool our knowledge and contacts and find a solution. The result was an incredibly inspiring evening which lead Gina and I to create Artyficial Dreams: a company providing connection workshops not for the sick or the homeless (although they are of course very welcome to attend!) but for all artists. To connect with other artists. And create more art.
Because I realised this: each of those people that sat around the table and discussed their projects had incredible visions to make the world better, be it through films that inform, dance classes that allow people to express their inner selves or plays that let readers disappear into a faraway land for a while. I felt a nagging sense of guilt that I'd let myself question the value of my career. I've experienced myself many times the healing and transformative power of music and words. I now consider myself very fortunate to be able to write music that can lift someone's mood, or to write a story that lets a reader forget their troubles for a while.
It is a pressing goal of mine now to develop and grow Artyficial Dreams so we can help get more amazing creations out into the world. Because it reminded me there is incredible value in what we as artists create. And it doesn't need to be validated.