Being self-employed can be a pretty isolating and exhausting experience and, to be honest, our creative energy has been at a low ebb recently. Which is why last week’s COMM/On was a timely and welcome intervention well worth making the time for.
Organised by our friends at Seedhead Arts, it had a simple aim, to bring a group of freelancers together and ask – how can we create a space where we can network, learn and foster new ways of working together?
There was an incredibly diverse range of people in the room, representing a wealth of skills and experience. And yet we found we had a lot in common. We had all experienced frustration in the face of out-dated legislation, poor infrastructure and a business culture that fails to recognise the potential and value of small-scale entrepreneurial initiatives taking creative and imaginative risks. But we also reiterated our passion for our work and our enjoyment in it. We saw that there is still room to grow something really exciting between the boundaries of traditional business. And we recognised that making a meaningful contribution to the communities in which we live is perhaps just as important to us as making ends meet.
I returned with a renewed energy as well as some new ideas and some potential new colleagues. I was reminded of how self-employment has opened up new ways of working (have a look at an earlier blog from Bryonie for more on this). And I re-discovered my commitment to my profession.
I do what I do because I have a deep-seated belief that heritage matters. That our heritage, in all its forms, has something important, something irreplaceable, to contribute to our society. Too many people in Northern Ireland regard our history as the root of our social and political problems. Our heritage is consistently under-valued and under-resourced, or, at worst, thoughtlessly obliterated for short–term gain (see #SaveCQ campaign). It is easy to feel defeated by institutional fear, apathy, dysfunction and incompetency. But the passion and energy I regularly encounter in working with our local communities can counter all of that.
There I find people who see that our heritage makes us who we are and makes this a pretty special place to live. I see people willing to give up their time and money to make sure it is protected. And I find people willing to embrace our history in all its complexity, even though that may shake the very foundation of their sense of self and community. There I can find hope, that through this growing appetite and commitment to heritage at a local level it may just be possible, eventually, to create meaningful change.
So I have also returned from COMM/On inspired to help create change. I believe quarto is already committed to that through the choices we make in the work we do. But I will also be looking for opportunities to connect with other freelancers in the place in which I live. I know of more than a few people who are creating interesting, innovative things on the north coast at the moment, out of a real love for and commitment to this place. I think it may be very possible to bring them together and create something exciting.
Let’s see what happens …
* from the feminist meme ‘nevertheless she persisted‘
feature image by Heather Dornan Wilson ‘finding beauty in unexpected places’