Dear friends and supporters of Nudge,
You’ve all been on my mind since Monday when I started my dream job and joined the team here at Nudge. Already within the first two days of being on the Nudge beat, I’ve heard a whole variety of stories shared about our home turf by different community members – stories that were spiced with connection, delight, humour, and appreciation; as well as those that spoke of frustration, anger, distrust, and impatience. I’ve tried to imagine how it might feel to be you – what you might have experienced, think, feel, or know about Nudge already – and what questions you might ask me as a new member of the Nudge team if you were given the chance. And so I’ve written some of these possible questions here, along with my answers, just to get a conversation started…
Q1 What’s your name, and where do you come from? (like Blind Date with Cilla Black!)
I’m Helen, and I was born and raised in Manchester.
Q2 What brought you to Plymouth?
So I came to Plymouth in 2011, with my then 3yr old son (as a single parent) to begin a masters degree at Plymouth Uni. I felt quite lonely and disconnected at first, but within a year or so I ended up falling in love with the city – it’s land and people – and now I call it the city of my heart, and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
Q3 Do you have any connections with Stonehouse?
Yes, I have many. In fact what stopped me from leaving this city when things were tough was discovering the Stonehouse community during my employment at KARST (contemporary art venue round the back of Aldi). As their first coordinator, part of my role involved making and nurturing those initial relationships with the people that were literally around us. What I found was a host of individuals dispersed across the neighbourhood – from residents to shop owners, and from organisational leaders to emerging artists – who were already provoking new ways of responding collaboratively to its specific needs and creative visions. A year or so later, I ended up becoming a resident of Stonehouse, along with my partner and son – both of whom were already travelling daily to the Red House (PSCA) for work and school. Although I now live in Devonport, Stonehouse is where my heart still resides and where I wish to invest my energies.
Q4 Why did you apply to work for Nudge?
I’ve known Hannah and Wendy (Nudge’s two co-directors) since 2015 when I first began volunteering at Union Corner, the home of Stonehouse Action Group. I very quickly noticed just how incredibly generous, courageous, joyful, and committed Hannah and Wendy, along with many other individuals, were in their service to the Stonehouse community. A few years ago I first made a vow (which I continue to make on a daily basis) to put service over self, to rely on human goodness and offer this faith as a gift to others, to stay present to the world as it is with an open mind and heart, and to stand steadfast in crisis and failure whilst not adding to the fear, aggression, and confusion. When I saw this job advertised, my gut rumbled with such a strong sense that this was an opportunity to live this vow at an even deeper level, right here in the city of my heart.
Q5 What exactly is your job at Nudge?
One of things I really appreciate about the way the Nudge team think and work is their commitment to being curious, so although this job is attached to a clear 3-year plan to create civic change along Union Street, it is not prescribed in black and white but instead invites colour, surprise, and possibility. Such an innovative approach can therefore not emerge as projects dropped in by parachute onto the street, but must be teased out patiently and gently through a cyclical process of listening, connecting, experimenting, and reflecting. My formal job title is Creator, but I see this role more as a creative enabler. I’m reading a book at the moment called How to Disappear (by Akiko Busch) and there’s something in that approach of invisible leadership that I am yearning to develop during the road ahead.
Q6 What skills and experience will you be bringing to this role?
I spent the first decade or so of my working life completely embedded in the arts, as a performer, choreographer, and director; and later after having retraining in technical theatre, as a production manager. Since moving to Plymouth, I’ve continued working in the arts with a number of cultural organisations across the city, including KARST, TR2, Beyond Face, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Next Steps South West, and the Barbican Theatre; whilst also completing two postgraduate certificates (in Dance and Creative Education), and setting up a new Community Interest Company (Being in Circle – legally constituted Dec 2018). All of these experiences have helped evolve a skillset that enable me to successfully manage both small and large-scale projects that often involve extensive project teams and the meeting of expected outcomes and deadlines with calm and confidence.
Q7 How are you going to respond to the many different issues and needs on the street?
So although I recognise that some of these issues and needs feel urgent, have often been ignored, or have been responded to but unsuccessfully – which has only generated more feelings of impatience, frustration, and anger among our community – I do not believe that jumping in and sticking on a quick fix plaster is the solution. Our daily lives are only getting faster and more distracted, and so I will be standing steadfast in my approach to slow down and invite many more eyes, ears, hearts and voices into the process as we purposefully pause, notice, and step back to look at the bigger picture before forming any kind of responses. Having practiced this kind of approach before with other groups and projects, I know that this will also help nurture our individual sense of responsibility in being part of this wonderful community, and therefore help build a more sustainable sense of cohesion and resilience.
Q8 So how will you be spending your first few weeks on the job?
So having completed my first week, I’m actually about to go on leave for two weeks. I’m going to a 10-day silent meditation retreat which I had booked in months ago, and although it means pressing the pause button having just got the wheels rolling, it will provide some valuable space to reflect on the complexity of the challenges that lie ahead. When I return in early August, I’ll be spending the first couple of months making sure I do lots of listening, witnessing, and connecting in community – which means coming out to meet you on the streets and in your spaces, and establishing some regular times when you can come to visit me here at The Clipper. It would be great to receive some questions from you directly (and not ones that I’ve made up) – so please feel free to reach out.
…meeting the moment with pause, breath, and heart…
I am in the office 3 days a week, and aim to respond to emails within this time frame.
Gentle wishes, Helen x
Creator – Creative Civic Change