Around the country those of us lucky enough to be nominated National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) by Arts Council England (ACE) have been scratching our heads trying to work out what our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be. KPIs are the numbers against which our achievements will be measured in the future. It’s a Somewhat Fraught Undertaking (SFU) because, pitch too low and you appear to be poor value for money, pitch too high and you stitch yourselves up in future years as you fail to deliver on your targets. It’s generally difficult to envisage what a reasonable target is because the Whole Arts Sector (WAS) is undergoing a Massive Convulsion (MC) and Recent Norms (RNs) seem to have gone Out of the Window (OotW). It’s extra tricky for organisations such as Stan’s Cafe whose work doesn’t follow a set pattern and is therefore difficult to predict even in the Most Stable Of Times (MSoT). Charlotte is poring over spreadsheets, I’m pouring coffee (C) and looking for patterns in the bottom of my mug.
Feel no sympathy though, today was as fun as it gets. A sunny cycle ride to the glorious University of Birmingham and the excellent Dr. Erin Sullivan from the Shakespeare Institute. Now, in the past I have got myself into trouble by saying how wonderful it is to be in the company of brainy people, in such a way as to suggest that this is a novelty. So here I’d like to be clear that talking with Dr. Sullivan was brilliant not just because she is brainy (I mix with very brainy people all day every day) but because she is a specialist where I am a generalist, she goes deep where I go shallow, she’s read THE WHOLE of The Anatomy of Melancholy where I am merely 84 pages into the Second Partition. She knows more about ‘the way Shakespeare and other renaissance literature engages with contemporary religious, scientific, and philosophical ideas about what it means to be a living, feeling, and thinking human being’ than I – or perhaps any of us – ever will and I love that. I love basking in presence of great knowledge and thoughtful opinion, I find it reassuring and stimulating.
Dr. Sullivan gave me an hour of her time, which isn’t bad for the price of a coffee. She’s not solved any of the issues I’ve been having thinking about adapting Richard Burton’s book – I wasn’t expecting that, but one day something she said may just spark the thought or make the connection that allows these problems to be solved.