Tom Porter, Lead Trainer for the WCC Creative Skills programme in Africa, shares his reflections on the intensive workshop sessions, which took place through November 2015, as the creative evaluate their work and start to plot their next steps…
“My experience of training for WCC enabled me to reconnect with creative entrepreneurs working at the forefront of the creative scenes in Malawi and Ethiopia. As is always the case in these situations, I learnt more than I taught, and I listened more than I spoke.
In both countries I think we were able to help the participants take a breath and take stock again of what they do and why. We also brought in local creative entrepreneurs to share their stories enabling participants to develop new connections within their own cities. We looked at topics such as business models, partnerships, marketing and fundraising but throughout the key was for the individuals to check in with their own individual aims, ambitions and working practices.
It is tough to make ends meet as an artist anywhere. And I think at times, there is too simple a narrative about entrepreneurialism in sub-Saharan Africa. There are growing economies and new opportunities created by increased accessibility to global markets but art can’t easily fit into an economic formula. I hope that one of the key ideas we were able to share was that as creatives the participants were well placed to be successful in a range of pursuits. Artists and creatives understand ideas and how to communicate them. It can be useful at times to separate your ‘sellable’ skills from the ‘art’ as at times the art is very personal, important and transformative but may not lead to immediate financial reward. I hope that we were able to help strengthen the participant’s ability to pursue their work informed by a business-like approach whilst understanding that there is more than economic value to making art that challenges, engages and transforms.
The two weeks developed new relationships in the country and WCC is following up to create connections between participants in Malawi and Ethiopia as well as Trinidad & Tobago. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to work with WCC to find out more about the creative sectors in Malawi and Ethiopia and I look forward to seeing how the project and the participants progress in the coming years.”
Tom Porter is an experienced business and programme manager with an entrepreneurial background. He is the newly appointed Director Arts, sub-Saharan Africa, British Council based in Addis Ababa. Porter has delivered training on a range of topics from festival management to new media skills for NGOs. After 7 years with his start-up new media business he worked at BBC World Service Trust and set up Bokamoso consultancy with the Lake of Starts Festival founder. From 2012 to 2015 Tom worked as Head of Arts South Africa for the British Council, where he created and delivered the Connect ZA programme, which was awarded it the Diplomacy in the Arts Award by Business and Arts South Africa. He is also a consultant for the sub Saharan Africa Arts programme and a part-time Global Digital Cultures MA student at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
WCC Creative Skills forms part of a larger project, Culture Works Connections to connect arts practitioners across Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific to international networks, and is funded by the ACP Cultures+ ACP-EU Support Programme to ACP Cultural Sectors, financed by the European Union and implemented by the ACP Group of States.