My name is my fortune

People sometimes look quizzical when I obsess about getting people’s names right, both orally and in writing, but I was taught early on in my career that, in the creative sector, your name is your fortune. It was the sainted John Goodwin, former Head of Press and Publicity at the National Theatre under Peter Hall, who taught me this. He was responsible for producing the monthly brochure for the NT, a complicated listing document that didn’t always offer much information to the public (‘Coriolanus – Shakespeare’s most political play’ was all we were allowed for marketing one production: gentle remonstrations were met with ‘But Anamaria, this is the National Theatre – our audience is highly educated’). However, it did include, in time-honoured NT fashion, a complete list of the acting company in alphabetical order. When the brochure was in final draft, John would send it round to every Head of Department and to anyone who might have any interest; you had to check it, sign it and pass it on. This ensured that we all took responsibility for its accuracy. On one occasion, we were in an HoDs’ meeting when the phone rang. It was an actor complaining that his name was not on the newly published brochure. Horrified, we all instantly reached for our copy to check. Sure enough, the name Paul Imbusch was not listed. We did, however, have an entirely imaginary actress listed: Pauline Bush.

I was reminded of this recently by a loosely connected incident that has just happened to a member of CIDA staff. She went to represent us at a conference in London organised by another creative company. When she registered, she did so under our trading name of CIDA International. Now, we have had that as a trading name for some years. You need special permission to be able to use ‘International’ in your company name and you have to fulfil particular conditions to be able to do so. Thus, we were – and are – very proud that we are formally allowed to call ourselves International. Work overseas constitutes a large part of our business and it is both good and useful to have it recognised. It also has the added advantage of distinguishing us from any competition. Imagine my colleague’s surprise then, when, upon arriving at the conference, she finds her name badge inscribed ‘CIDA North’…… It is hard to imagine the process that must have occurred to allow this to happen: a conscious change from information given on an ordinary registration form into something that is entirely made up – not even a simple misinterpretation! We have never been CIDA North, ever, anywhere! One of the great joys of being a completely independent private company, rather than one that is funded by a Local Authority, for example, is that we have always been able to work anywhere we want to, across the world! – I admit the absurdity caused great amusement in the CIDA office when she returned and told us about it, but in all seriousness, it also caused considerable confusion, as I later discovered. In an industry like ours, or, in fact, in any industry, the least we can do is to respect each other’s names!

[Anamaria Wills, CIDA International; w:; t: anamariacida]