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Take Five with Juliet Brain

Juliet Brain is a culture activist, creative consultant, producer, active in the promotion, delivery and development of cultural projects and ideas, with a specialism in youth arts and theatre arts. She is also describes herself as a 'habitual' photographer and if like me, you follow her on Twitter, you do get some amazing images popping up on your timeline.

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I love the producing element of my career. Simplifying the complex, finding solutions to gnarly problems, creating a fluid team that allows for the best in everyone to flow into the end result. As a freelancer it is a joy to work as part of a team as opposed to working alone. Creatives can be tricky, chaotic, demanding and irrational people but when you do your job well and everyone is pulling in the same direction albeit in their own unique way there is such a wonderful sense of satisfaction.

Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

Perhaps I should start by saying it is not generally in my nature to hero-worship, I didn’t have a favourite football team as a child and only put a band-poster up on my bedroom wall because everyone else did and it seemed to be the thing to do. If I admire and respect people it will usually be because they have demonstrated they are deserving of it, and are compassionate and dedicated rather than heroic. But I do have to mention Lynn Wyfe, whom I met in her role as a Youth Theatre Director (later a Performing Arts Lecturer at Bournemouth & Poole University) who scooped me up as a lost and bewildered teenager and gave me a sense of direction and whom much later on, scooped me up once more and gave me a sense of purpose after the loss of my daughter. She has been and no doubt continues to be despite retirement, a wise and smart friend and mentor to many people in the arts world. I might also mention Louise Stewart the Director of Multitude of Voyces, a more recent acquaintance who is outwardly diminutive but inwardly mighty. MoV exists to support Inclusive Community through music with underrepresented, underutilsed, vulnerable or marginalized communities. I have worked with Louise now on three projects involving giving women a voice in the world of Church Music, Liturgy and the world in general. I find myself in awe of her gentle but fierce determination, her vision and her compassion. When Louise invited me to become a Trustee of MoV she mentioned that I would be the non public school representative (sorry Louise I will stop mentioning this soon!) and was immediately horrified that I might be offended but I was, in fact, delighted to be breaking such ground! Don’t jump too quickly to judge dear reader, Louise is all over diversity and accessibility and I am happy to be a seed planted in her garden of empowerment.

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

Oh, how I love this question! At the beginning of my eclectic and diverse career I was given quite a bit of advice by some of the many actors both young and old that I was lucky enough to meet at Salisbury Playhouse where I was a member of the Youth Theatre and elevated to an assistant director role before leaving for Drama School. But it is the advice given by the brilliant actor, Bernard Finch who sadly died in 1990 that everyone should have when starting out. I had returned from my first job touring Scotland in a play by Mark Wheeler called Too Much Punch for Judy. I have never had another job like it, it was challenging mentally, emotionally and physically and it took me to places I would never have dreamed of going to (Dinner at Edinburgh Castle, lunch at Gleneagles, breakfast in the Glasgow CID Canteen). My world horizons broadened exponentially. However in the last week of the tour my colleague and I got our hair cut in Edinburgh and somehow I managed to let the hairdresser persuade me to dye my hair dark brown and cut it very short… I hated it. When I met Bernard on my return home, bemoaning the fact I would never work again and that I looked hideous, he took my hand and said ‘what are you afraid of?” and talked about fear being a barrier to experiencing life and work more fully and that every time you hear yourself making excuses you should recognize it as a fear and if you couldn’t embrace it, simply brush it aside. “Don’t be your own worst enemy, be your own best friend”. It was excellent advice, I can’t always live up to it. It doesn’t matter how good the advice is if you aren’t in the right head-space to listen to it, but I remember Bernard’s encouragement and will be eternally grateful for his kindness in taking the time to talk to me and help me laugh at myself. Whenever I take on a mentoring role, I tip my hat to Bernard and promise to be as kind and generous with my time and encouragement, as he was to me. I also have a rather amazing friend from youth theatre days called Dominic Tighe, who was an inspirational business manager for Yell as well as being a sportsman, athletics coach and a stand-up comic, even after being diagnosed with MS. He told me recently that his favourite motivational phrase that his children often repeat back to him, is based on the American baseball player Babe Ruth, and it chimes with what Bernard was saying to me - “Pick up the Bat!”. Dom is currently writing a book about living, laughing and working with a positive mindset through the pain and challenges of MS. If you don’t understand what he meant by ‘pick up the bat’ then buy his book when it is published. Buy it! It will be the best investment you make.

If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

If I get a creative block, it is always because I am tired or stressed. I meditate and if it’s really bad, I walk away from it and don’t give it any attention. When I have refreshed and return to it, I can guarantee the block, will either have gone or I will have realized that I’m doing it all wrong and need a fresh approach.

If you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

Oh la! Am I a wellie or a walking boot? Sturdy and practical, often outdoors in all weathers? Hmm? My friend Angie suggested I could be an old loafer, and I do like to mooch around and think about projects I’m working on, less of a ‘mind palace’ more of a comfy sofa with a cup of tea and a biscuit… Or maybe I am a soft, well worn, black leather dancing shoe with a strap and solid but shapely heel? I think I would actually be a ‘Wedged Sandal’. A sandal that gives you extra height to see more of the horizon, that doesn’t have silly heels that get you stuck in-between the cracks. A sandal that makes you feel elegant. Wedges have weight to them and keep you grounded yet still enable you to dance. Although, if I were a wedged sandal, I’d have a neoprene cover to fit over me like a galosh to enable walking about the muddy countryside because much of my creativity these days is rooted in the countryside. That said, I do like a nice dancing shoe….


Twitter: @Artsmonkey1

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