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A Spektrix Conference 2019 Review - Opera North

I think that one of the most important things we can do in this sector is to remain outward looking and open to change. In practice, it's about listening to audiences, stakeholders, artists and peers and having the ability to look back at our own organisation though those many lenses whilst holding ourselves accountable to our company’s mission and values. As practitioners, we need to have an unwavering appetite to learn about what else is happening in the sector, to understand what part our organisation has to play within the fabric of our country’s cultural offer and what we can learn from one another. After all, we are greater than the sum of our parts.

I always look forward to the Spektrix conference and this year didn’t disappoint. The opportunity to step out of my day to day, to reconnect with friends from across the industry and have some thinking space to challenge and consider new ways of working is so valuable. Creating this room to learn from peers doing great work in the arts is an important part of my year and my own professional growth. Plus, it’s a marker and a moment to come together with the wider Spektrix community and celebrate the leaps we have made as a collective over the course of the past year – who wouldn’t enjoy that morale boost?

The theme for the 2019 conference was resilience and the notion that in order to be truly resilient in the future, we must be open to a paradigm shift. This provocation stayed firmly in my mind throughout the course of the day, and during the sessions I attended and my conversations with peers, it became clear that being open to change in this way really is the best approach, for the sector to truly flourish. The mixture of content, from panel discussions, to presentations of case studies and talks on developing new toolkits made for a varied day which sparked healthy debate and discussion, which was always honest and focused on how to implement change for the better.

For the first time, there was a very welcome focus on health and wellbeing. The irony is not lost on me that, as a sector, we pour infinite energy in using culture as a vehicle to connect people and enhance lives and wellbeing, yet we are notoriously bad at employing the same principals to our workforce, who work long and often unsociable hours. Listening to some of the changes that Theatr Clwyd are making to encourage and support staff to improve their physical and mental health was encouraging and inspiring, and yet so simple for all of us to replicate.

I left the conference feeling energised, inspired and ready to start looking at what I can do in my own organisation to create a paradigm shift that will take us into a resilient future.   

Deborah Larwood
Head of Development
Opera North