Daisy Gould, Marketing and Communications Officer, Iris Prize Festival
“I don’t have any smart clothes!” I cry, packing for my flight to Liverpool, staring at my I work from home closet, and full of first conference nerves. “Daisy, it’s an arts conference,” my girlfriend (and occasional voice of reason) calls from the next room.
The next day Deborah Williams, the very first keynote speaker, walks onto the stage in her socks, and I quietly add another tick in the long ‘pros’ column to working in the arts.
It’s this mindset that follows me throughout the rest of the conference, and strengthened by the theme of ‘Power of Play’. That’s not to say I didn’t get a whole lot of learning done – “Serious play,” says Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp in his opening keynote. Creativity with focus.
A session about analytics? Sure! I picked up tips and tricks that will really help make sense of all the information we gather. Building a rocket out of Lego? Great! Sitting next to someone whilst you both search for a tiny yellow lady is the perfect opportunity for a chat.
A highly practical breakout on SEO made me want to log into our website then and there and start making improvements. More strategic breakout sessions helped me broaden my perspectives about the working environment and my mindset, beyond just to the benefit of our audiences. How much courage do I have to take risks? To look foolish? Probably not enough, but thinking about it is the start. The Audience Diversity Academy breakout brought to me the line “it can’t be about us without us.” Particularly working where I do (an LGBT+ film festival) I can already tell this approach is going to be useful to me and the communities we work with.
And then, of course, there was time to admire the restraint of whoever didn’t draw a picture of a penis on the drawing boards out front.
“Creativity is a great way to break the rules without ending up in detention,” someone said on the first day. Perhaps that’s how we ended up starting day two looking through the phone pictures of a total stranger, picking out one we liked (I’ll take that one of the sourdough loaves, thanks).
From my very first night first buddha bowl experience, to the last night watching a ukulele band playing Eminem, there were other first timers and more experienced AMA-ers sharing in the evening’s events. So many people willing to chat openly, offering both new perspectives and a friendly face to this shy first timer as I explained that yes, I was English but I worked for a Welsh festival and lived in Belfast (a decent conversation starter). It couldn’t have been more welcoming.
I was also pleased – amongst all the intake of new information and reinforcement of things I’d written a long time ago in notepad far, far away – to discover my workplace is excellent at play. Learning and developing are so important, but in the constant effort to do better and get more bums on seats, there’s also strength in celebrating there’s things you’re doing right.
I know I’ve armed myself with a huge amount of practical advice to improve the work I do. More importantly, I feel inspired and empowered by my first AMA Conference experience. I’m looking forward to 2019 already.
My AMA conference 2018 Top Three
— “What you do internally will always be felt internally”. Just one of the many inspirational quotes I wrote down from keynotes and breakouts throughout the conference. Sometimes all you need is someone clever who can articulate the thing in 9 words or less.
— The conference as a whole made me confident about both what I do, and what I can do. When you’re always in the midst of work, it’s significant to have two days reflection on why you do the things you do.
— Learning about SEO in the session with Daniel Rowles is going to be incredibly useful moving forward. To take my knowledge about it from theoretical to something practical and easily achievable in a very short space of time is fantastic.