Creative Entrepreneurialism, Artist Self-Empowerment and Other Important Things….

Interestingly, Ben Walmsley of Leeds University posted a link to an article from the American Theatre Communications Group, an organisation I hadn’t come across before – the article reports a discussion between a group of academics from different US universities, all discussing how they provide entrepreneurial training for their student artists –  I had a distinct sense of deja vu about the ensuing conversation:  it seemed to mirror the discussions we were having at the end of the ’90s, which in the end resulted in the setting up of CidaCo – I was naturally, and, I’m afraid, irresistibly, tempted to respond!   Here is that reply:  I hope it doesn’t sound arrogant – it was reassuring to hear from the American Theatre group discussion that the issues facing American artists, even in their hyper-entrepreneurial cultural context, are just the same as those assailing artists in the rest of the world!

Having been a creative entrepreneur for over 20 years, I set up my company CidaCo ( over thirteen years ago (in 2000) specifically to help artists become more entrepreneurial, to earn more from their creativity, and to exploit the opportunities arising from the global move into a knowledge economy.. the company is run by creative entrepreneurs for creative entrepreneurs – since we have to run our own company, we ‘walk the talk’ – e.g when we talk of the demands of cash-flow we know whereof we speak! But our courses, which have grown and adapted over the years, have two unchanging elements: firstly, we focus first on behaviours – anyone can learn cash-flow and marketing plans: what makes the difference are the attributes an individual brings – how do we nurture those to strengthen the potential for success? Secondly, we support the training with 1-2-1 mentoring by established practitioners. Theoretical underpinning is enriched by practical know how and networks. As the sector grows in confidence and sees entrepreneurialism not just as ‘business skills’ (as important as those are) but as ways of making things happen, the demand for knowledge and skills grows. Exacerbated by a challenging financial climate, our clients’ need these days is for culture change and transformation of practice and business. With our Silicon Valley partners, we have designed a mix of the best of UK creativity with the best of US innovation to help clients change from traditional thinking and ways of doing things to looking outwards more, with more confidence, to see new opportunities, find new audiences and achieve greater impact, both intrinsic and instrumental! We have taken this work to over 34 countries, sometimes working in partnership with universities (e.g. we designed and co-delivered the first Professional Diploma in Creative Entrepreneurship with the National University of Singapore and are exploring a similar venture in Lagos with the Pan African University) and sometimes with other local organisations eg Fundacion Corona in Bogota or Culture Fund in Zimbabwe. The most important thing that we aim to give all our clients is the sense that they are in the driving seat – no more artist as victim or ‘airhead’ – the future is theirs and they can seize it!

A postscript to that response is that we will shortly be announcing that CidaCo has just been informed that we have been successful in our ACE G4A application:  we will be offering a 12 month programme of support for 20 arts organisations across Yorkshire, to help them deal with the changing financial environment, seeking new opportunities to exploit their assets, both tangible and intangible,  and to effect the necessary culture change where everybody in the organisation, from the Board to the stage doorkeeper, takes individual responsibility for the company’s success.

Cluny Macpherson, Regional Director of Arts Council England, is quoted in our press release: “We are really pleased to be supporting CidaCo’s Creative Capital programme with this lottery award. The UK’s arts and culture sector is the largest cultural economy in the world as a share of GDP and a thriving arts sector will make a positive contribution to the country’s economic recovery. Creative Capital will help the sector access new sources of revenue and become even more entrepreneurial. This will result in a more resilient arts sector with a bigger capacity to create fantastic arts experiences for audiences across Yorkshire.”

In the next week or so, we’ll be inviting organisations across Yorkshire to take part in this programme but those of you who read these blogs are getting the heads up!  (I should say that, if you would like more information, contact the ineffable Dawn Rogers at CidaCo on 0113 373 1754)

Anamaria Wills

PS  the link to the American Theatre Group Communications is