Week 18: Chair’s Blog – Triumph and Disaster

We all need an outlet now and again to get us out of ourselves when times are tough and to escape from the realities of the daily grind.  For me reconnecting with theatre was a huge lifesaver almost two decades ago, as work had become far too intense and all consuming.  Other than watching my local football team, Wimbledon, my ‘downtime’ was largely built socialising with work colleagues – which invariably meant ‘talking shop’ – as well as with my family.

Getting involved with Carlton Theatre Group, and other groups meant meeting new people, challenging myself and also having some fun. It additionally had a positive impact on my relationship with my son who picked up the bug, and an acting degree on the way, alongside another outlet in music, where we also bonded.

But creativity comes in many forms.  In theatre it’s not just acting – there’s opportunities to get involved in designing and building sets, sound and lighting design, not to mention writing, directing, music or dance.  These are all important creative outlets within most unpaid amateur groups as well as professional companies.  And of course, these days with cameras on all our phones there’s the opportunity to express yourself creatively on film and with all sorts of technology design as well.

If being involved in performance art isn’t your thing, there are always lots of other outlets to consider. Many people take pleasure in handicraft.  One of our members ‘Fayre and Square’ used to run a shop in Centre Court (as it was) promoting 30 local artisans before it had to restart as a pop up. Others are able to find creativity in gardening (if they are fortunate to have one) or are able to contribute to public gardens such as at South Park Gardens or have an eye for design at home. For some people, being imaginative with food and cooking brings great joy – I will openly admit my (separated) wife had far more creativity in the kitchen than I’ve ever had.

If you’re younger and perhaps starting a family and/or focusing on a career path elsewhere it may be that, like me, you find it difficult to find the time to develop that outlet, but I think it’s important however old we are to take a step back and consider those other activities we one enjoyed at school or maybe never got the chance to explore. It’s good sometimes to find completely new outlets.

Many fields of work encourage creativity and ‘thinking outside the box’ and that can of course provide helpful fuel for the imagination, although at the same time I would urge caution in some professional fields. ‘Creative accounting’ as it became known, when I was studying my professional exams, takes us down a completely different rabbit hole. I have various thoughts on financial reporting and ethical accounting standards – but that is most definitely a subject for another time.

Going back to the theme of theatre, I’ve come to realise that for me the most important thing is to have fun with what you’re doing. Whilst I’ve had some training and I think some of the techniques l picked up do have very useful generic applications; I’ve also learned from others that it’s a tough profession to be involved with. You have to put up with a lot of rejection. Being turned down for amateur roles is one thing but if your livelihood depends on it, that can be far more brutal.

Of course, we all have to put up with rejection and failure in our lives. I’ve had my fair share like others, but as I’ve tried to explain to my son using that old Rudyard Kipling poem it’s how you deal with the ‘impostors’ of triumph and disaster which will be the true test of your character. And ultimately your own mental health as well. Next week I will focus a little more on the importance of family and friendships and some of the other local resources that we have here in Merton to help us when we face challenging times.

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