Today is my last day as Curator at FutureEverything. Soon, I head off to a new, very exciting adventure (I’ll stop being so secretive soon, but here’s a clue, it’s not a PhD anymore). I’ll try to keep this short, but there’s a lot to be said about the two and a half years I’ve spent in Manchester (and beyond…).
It started in 2014 when I visited FutureEverything as a punter and Lighthouse delegate, and as a writer on a project with Scott Smith and Near Futures Laboratory, Winning Formula (which will catch up to speed very soon as 2018 approaches). At some point, after exploring the future city they’d created in a corner of Manchester, I bumped into then Executive Director Tom Higham, whose energy and enthusiasm, despite the long days, was infectious. A lot of this world was hugely new to me, I’d only just started to make sense of the weird, turned-on-their-head, uncanny futures that this community offered, but it always felt very much at home with those I found at FutureEverything festival. I’m not sure what that says about me. FutureEverything felt like a place where I could expend some of that energy that was building up at the back of my brain, with people that would allow me space to do so.
Without going into detail, not much later a job came up that seemed perfect. In January 2015, I found myself travelling the 250-odd miles north to Manchester from Brighton and ended up sticking around for the ride.
There’s so many projects I could mention, but I’ll try and sum up the highlights.
FutureEverything is partly responsible for one of my favourite things I’ve had the pleasure to work on; Haunted Machines. Before I even worked at FutureEverything, Tobias Revell and I had a brief conversation on Twitter with Jose Luis de Vicente, FutureEverything’s curator where we’d noticed this odd magic and technology thing happening, and wondered if we could, maybe, figure it out in public. Somehow, we convinced them to let us do a one-day track at FutureEverything 2015, and it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. It’s always amazing when an institution has absolute faith in the people it works with, and we wouldn’t be here today (curating a WHOLE festival for Impakt in Utrecht) without that initial support three years ago. So cheers.
In 2015, we also went to Singapore, which was probably the most difficult time I spent at FE. It was gruelling and difficult, I’m not afraid to say I screwed up on more than a couple of occasions, but I learnt so many insane, important lessons in doing so. I was exhausted, and tired, and frustrated at myself, but I wanted to stick with it because you can’t just run away every time something gets hard, plus there was an amazing team beside me. It’s not every day that you get to say you helped curate a conference with some of the best speakers in the world, on a developing topic, halfway across the world, held at a spectacular venue run by a previous mentor and good friend.
Late last year, I helped set up talent development and commissioning programme FAULT LINES, with the help of Tom Higham and Joeli Brearley before they moved on, taking the helm as Cohort Manager alongside Executive Producer Julia Turpin. The programme kicked off this January with eight astounding artists and designers, and it’s been one of my absolute career highs so far. I’m so pleased that I played a part in this, and can’t wait to see what they all come up with next. Dan, Ling, Helen, Jonathan, Matthew, Naho, Peter, and Kasia; thanks, it’s been bloody brilliant working with you.
Finally, my last mission for FutureEverything was in Taiwan, where with a small but dedicated team, we produced our first international FAULT LINES commission — Positively Charged by Kasia Molga for Taipei Arts Festival. It was intense, and blindingly hot, but so worth it to make new friends in a country I’m itching to get back to. I’m unbelievably lucky that my job with FE has taken me to places I never thought I’d visit, let alone curate work in.
FutureEverything has been responsible for so much of my intellectual and professional development, and given me some tough lessons that I hope I won’t forget. It hasn’t always been easy, but nothing worth it ever is.
Here’s the thanks section, made up of the brilliant people I’ve worked with at FutureEverything for almost three years. I can’t properly say everything I need to about these wonderful folks, and I really hope I’m not missing anyone, but here’s a start.
Simon for being the first person who had to deal with me, and although we fell out about sad-dad music, it was still a lot of fun arguing over the table; Michael for always being a welcoming face in the office and constantly fixing my bike tires; Kevin for your curiosity and excellent stationary collection; Vim for being my desk mate and cheerleader, the DWP won’t know what’s hit them, I look forward to voting for you one day; Daniel for the constant intellectual challenges and reminder to always look to the positive side of life, you’ll be an amazing dad; Rachel for your determination, sensitivity, integrity and intuition, I’ve learnt so much about strategy (personally and professionally) from you; Helen for your unbreakable calm, octopus-like task juggling and excellent taste; Anthea for being the one to remind me there’s more to life than work, I hope I get to have half the amount of adventures you do; Feimatta for your commitment to a better world, both in and out of the office. Minnie, Ishy and Ella, your first weeks were my last, but I know you’ll love the place.
Mark for being my first housemate-colleague and helping Manchester be a much less scary place for a southener; Naomi for being the most emotionally supportive, bloody brilliant producer I’ve ever worked with, and I’ll always remember Krabi; Sarah, another brilliant producer who regularly sorts me out of tizzes and can organise literally anything into order, I can’t think of a better person to look after the FAULT LINES crew; Callum for putting up with me the longest, it’s been amazing to see you progress through the company and find your feet, you’ve got such a curiosity to know more that you‘re already producer gold-dust; Joeli for helping me at my most difficult times, for getting FAULT LINES into order, and reminding me to fight for what I believe in, you’re a Wonder Woman; Tom R., for your mad ideas and confidence in mine, and for camaraderie when I needed it most; Julia, for your guidance and companionship, and for reminding me to always remember those left behind.
Andy, for genuinely caring about people and their place in an organisation, and for his monthly mountain-climbing stories; Jose Luis for constantly challenging my thinking and defining what a curator should be nowadays, I can’t wait for your mad, amazing, show at CCCB in November; Drew for your drive and determination to always be the best, although we’ve not always seen eye to eye, I’ve been lucky to have you as a sparring partner; and lastly to Tom Higham, who took a chance on me and will always be someone I learn the most important lessons from, whether it’s fighting the tough battles, or learning how to enjoy your success. Thanks mate.