All in a day’s work

Posted on 25th June 2015 by Svend McEwan-Brown

Yesterday, as Artistic Director of the East Neuk Festival, I fulfilled many roles. For example I quite literally acted as a cash cow, or possibly mule. First task of the day was to pick up £XK of petty cash and get it to the safe before I could be mugged. For extra security I took Ian, ENF’s General Manager, to the bank. He’s a very nice guy but he’s much bigger than me, and does a good mean and moody. This kind of job only crops up for me at this time of year – the last few days before the festival when all hands are on deck. Most of my year is spent at one remove from actual production but right now the ENF team is just too small for me not to get my hands a little dirty. There’s a good reason why I don’t do too more of it. Quite simply, the production team do it better.

Event and production managers are often very self-effacing, even dismissive of the skills they apply to making wonderful artistic experiences happen, but I know that behind every successful show lies months of methodical and painstaking work that demands attention to detail and resourceful responsiveness. You won’t see these people onstage but their work is all around you in any performance you attend. So over the past 10 years we have evolved a careful mutual respect, the production team and me. I come up with crazy things for them to do and they deliver. And I can spot at 100 paces the unmistakable signs of someone who doesn’t quite know how to tell me to back off on some issue of lighting or staging or whatever – so I generally save them the bother. Quite honestly (given that I trust my team entirely) I’d rather spend my time planning ahead to next year than meddling around in stuff I don’t need to.

And yet yesterday I was picking up the stationery order and the cash, planning some social media, finalising the details for one or two supporters’ dinners and suppers, and checking in with a world famous composer about his catering requirements. All in a day’s work.