Release Your Inner Female Ninja

Sarah Chambers reflects on the action-focussed ninja like attitude at this year's AMA conference...

Release your inner Female Ninja

That was the provocation set by the grime-loving warrior Debris Stevenson. It felt like an appropriate gauntlet (or poison tipped ninja dart) to be thrown down. The idea that the days to follow should have bite, and be a chance for delegates to reconnect with their inner motivation, creating an air of positivity and, well, fighting talk...

This great opener to the conference gave me the idea that I’d look out for out for snippets of that action-focussed ninja like attitude. Recommendations (official and unofficial) or overheard conversations from delegates or speakers who seemed up for a fight!

You are bias. Change it.

Ali Hanan of Creative Equals us to do the ‘Implicit Association Test (IAT) – a Harvard-devised scientific test which assesses the associations and stereotypes outside of our conscious awareness. Understanding our personal implicit bias, then using that knowledge to shift our behaviours in situations that matter is a powerful proposition. No more copy-cat recruitment, no more ‘if I can drink with them in the pub them I’ll work with them’ attitude. Take the test here.

‘I’m just gonna do it’

I tried to do a count of the number of times I heard the word ‘Idea’, on stage, in conversations, (at one point in neon letters on its own in a powerpoint)… but I gave up. OK – many of those ideas might not land (some might not deserve to land) but for a creative sector we rarely get the time to just talk ideas – good or otherwise. So with a programmes filled with entrepreneurial speakers talking of resetting, innovation and ideas – it sort of felt like a safe place to for delegates to talk about trying some stuff out. As I overhead one delegate say in the coffee break while talking wistfully to a colleague about a new initiative that had just got stuck in the bog of the day to day: "Sod it, I’m just gonna do it".

‘I would urge you to ask brave questions’

Post presentations questions can be bit forced and Q&As hit and miss. But at the conversation on new audiences with a panel of completely honest, passionate previously ‘non-attending’ audience ambassadors – the South East Dance facilitator brilliantly said she would ask them brave, direct questions about the barriers they faced when attending our organisations work. And she did.

As a result there were brave direct responses from the panel about how we can change to really be inclusive. No more old school gender bias announcements of ‘Ladies and Gentleman’; Why not set up pre-show explanations – not post show talks, they are much more useful; Can we offer buddy systems for those who want/need companionship to combat anxiety? All practical actions we can make happen

Finally, in that same session, I saw a female ninja in action. Her name was Jan Goddard, a therapist and support worker for people with mental health and substance abuse issues, who had been taking groups to see dance as part of a community ambassadors scheme. Her account of attending the arts with communities who would never ordinarily go, made me think once again about the opening keynote from Debris – her view that you should forget the emails and connecting with the reason why you do what you do in the first place – find your female ninja...

Jan talked about her experience, motivation and the spirit of the scheme she was a part of. When asked why this type of inclusive work is important she said:

Art can reflect back to us who we are and what we are capable of. We reveal ourselves to ourselves.

Fighting talk indeed.

Sarah Chambers, Chief Business Development Officer