I started my adult life working in a bureaucratic setting. One of my responsibilities in my clerical job was to answer the phone. It was in the civil service, so there were usually a lot of calls from the general public. I don’t remember having any particularly bad experiences, but I couldn’t bear to answer the phone when I reached home after work.
Eventually, I stepped out of that lifestyle, into the one that I’ve known ever since – in the arts. There are moments when those of us in that sector have to explain what we do to bureaucrats, which is not usually a very comfortable experience.
Organisations of all sorts probably need some bureaucratic efficiency to remain afloat in the system, mainly because we all need to be accountable with regard to rules, regulations, taxes, etc. A colleague and I recently had a rueful conversation about the way that some of our contemporaries have managed to thrive, through combining artistic and bureaucratic roles in their careers.
Like anything else in life, there are some people who are well suited to this sort of work and they usually stand out as achievers, because most artists would prefer to focus on the creative side of things.
When the two worlds have to merge together to bring projects into being, it can be tricky negotiating over who should take the lead. There is no doubt however, that artists are better placed to visualise the content of ambitious creative projects. In prosperous European countries, this idea seems to be well understood. Can British culture learn the lesson well enough to incorporate it into the system after Brexit?