I’m just a dad so I was dead chuffed to get an email a few years ago from the RSA inviting me to become a fellow for my “services to innovation in education“.” Who, me?
I had seen a TED-style talk and an animated equivalent on their website which had inspired me and other parents and carers (people who care) to start a project in my sons’ primary school in Paddington to bring the community into the school to work with parents, teachers and local businesses to inspire our children’s creativity.
I was quite chuffed when The Guardian and Wired magazine called me ‘a man on a mission’ but the icing on the cake was when Sir Ken Robinson nominated me for a Fellowship last year.
I don’t know how many of the RSA’s 29,000 fellows know what the ‘A’ in RSA stands for. I’m sure people have many interpretations, certainly some different today to when the RSA started in a coffee shop a few hundred years back.
I won’t spoil the story for you if you don’t know how in the early days they had a little bit of a spat with a few fellows over some art, so they broke away to do their own thing on their pedestals.
I can honestly say that being a Fellow of the RSA has had its ups and downs - mostly ups and sideways actually. Within a few months I was asked to give a short talk in the fantastic Great Room in John Adam Street that a few friends filmed on smartphones and which has now been seen by thousands of people.
That night another new Fellow(ette) Anne-Marie Imadfidon MBE gave a talk about a project she was starting called STEMMETTES which has gone on to great things, promoting STEM careers and opportunities for young girls particularly.
Another friendly Fellow, Alex Bell has created incredible opportunities for me and we’ve worked on several projects together. Only last night he shared with me an early cut of an incredible piece of work he is currently developing on education for all of our children.
I’ve connected with Rachel Snape, a head teacher in Cambridgeshire, another Fellow who is known not only for her ukulele skills but her power to connect her community both locally and nationally.
Even Ann Mroz, the Editor in Chief of the Times Education Supplement (TES), has become a collaborator; not only considering my scribbles for publication in her respected magazine, but also offering to chair what will surely be a heated debate on the subject of creativity in schools for us. As she says, the TES represents a broad church and diverse range of views from the most toxic in some cases, to the most inspiring and progressive, and possibly impractical, at the other.
Ann is one of many fellows and other friends and collaborators I have met on this journey who are whole heartedly supporting the #ARTCONNECTS Festival of Creative Schools Work and Lives which we are holding in King’s Cross this weekend, the U.K.’s latest Creative Hub and Knowledge Quarter.
One of my closest collaborators currently is Kenneth Tharp CBE, a professional dancer and former CEO of The Place dance centre in King’s Cross who is curating a dance panel for #ARTCONECTS. Having connected on Facebook, Kenneth was there that night I gave my first pitch to the RSA.
We have arranged an amazing range of speakers and contributors but I think I’m most looking forward to hearing from Matthew Taylor, CEO of The RSA who launched the Power to Create Agenda three years ago and since has done a lot of important work on how this connects to a future with, or without, work as we know it, and how our creativity might help us hold society together.
Yes, ‘together’ is the word that particularly inspires me at the moment, stirred initially by a Christmas ident by BBC One with the performing single father and daughter (the animators are speaking at #ARTCONNECTS).
Similarly the Co-op made a fantastic TV ad at Christmas around community with the best strapline of any festive ad ever – ‘Christmas is Coming Together’.
For me, the amazing people they’ve hired recently and the fact that the mighty Lemn Sissay MBE heads up their Community Ambassadors puts them down as a brand with values to match and watch.
So what does the ‘A’ in RSA really stand for IMHO?
Well a couple years ago I was sent a box of books as a thank you by an incredible marketing thinker and prolific change maker Seth Godin. You may have heard of him.
His self written, designed and published book ‘Your Turn’ as a manifesto for people to make change, to get up and get off the broken escalator.
One of the lines in a film he made around the book is ‘art is what we call it when what we do might connect us.’
So that’s what the ‘A’ stands for for me: the power of Art to Connect, that #ARTCONNECTS - a coming together for the common good.
If you vaguely agree, I do hope you’ll consider joining us in King’s Cross this Saturday - we have free tickets thanks to a generous sponsor I connected with when I gave her one of the books Seth had given me.
Let’s blow the roof off.