Saturday 27 October 2012

Arranging a speed-dating Creative Café

This isn’t about finding the perfect partner but about raising the profile of creative practitioners and allowing those interested in the arts to get a closer look at content providers. It also allows the creative practitioners to get to know each other better.
Financing / marketing
A café owner or a creative practitioner should do this. It’s probably ideal if they work together. A set price could be charged. This should finance café’s time and pay for drinks and a slice of cake for all involved. My favourite local café would charge a modest £7.00. Up to £15.00 might seem reasonable according to venue and the value-added those involved might consider they’re getting.   
Café Set up
Tables should be set up so that two people can sit opposite each other.
The “speed-dating” should last a maximum of two hours, with a short introduction at the beginning. The evening / afternoon will need to be brought to a close and it might be good to have a half hour or so at the end to allow people to chat more informally. At this point, it would be fair to revert to normal café conditions, with participants paying for extra drinks.
There shouldn’t probably be more than twenty-four or less than twelve participants. Each session should be between five and ten minutes, depending on the number of people involved. It’s probably good to aim for half and half – say twelve practitioners and twelve audience members, though any combination can introduce interesting dynamics.  
Half the group moves round. The other half sit at a table. Make sure that half of each group are moving so that all of the following combinations are possible:
Creative practitioner / audience
Creative practitioner / creative practitioner
Audience / audience
Half of the time the “static” person should talk and the other half the “visitor”. See below for talking point suggestions.
Creative practitioner / audience
This probably isn’t the place to try and sell a CD, a painting or a book but the creative practitioner should certainly be prepared to talk about their work and how else they work – residencies, talks, events they have coming up. They should certainly have literature about their work and these events to give out.
The audience member could sneak in a book to be signed but might also quiz the creative practitioner about aspects of her work that she finds interesting. She might even find out whether she could involve this particular person in some event she is organising – perhaps a school event or supporting a favourite charity.  The audience member can give the practitioner some feedback if she knows her work. Or maybe, if she likes the practitioner’s work, she could commission something.  Some of these things may actually occur after the event.
Audience / audience
The two audience members could discuss why they’ve come here. They could point out to each other anything they have already found out that might help the person to whom they’re talking. They may even be able to support each other in their endeavours.
Creative practitioner / creative practitioner
Can they support each other?  Can they work together? Can they share some knowledge? Even if there appears to be no common ground they should exchange contact details. Something may occur later.    
Fancy arranging a speed-dating Creative Café session?
Go for it! And let us know how you get on.         

Saturday 13 October 2012

What makes a Creative Café creative?

Just a few reminders here.  The general principle is that the café offers creative practitioners the opportunity to engage with each other and their audiences and offers the general public the opportunity to interact closely with creative practitioners.  
Customers deposit books they have read and take away ones that others have deposited.
Newspapers and arts publications
The café keeps a supply of these for customers to read.
Book launches and readings
These are held regularly at the venue.
Reading and writing groups
These are also held regularly at the venue.
Arts workshops
These might include creative writing workshops, costume-making, crafts, cooking, art – even life-drawing if you have the right sort of events room.
Talks and lectures
Why here and not a lecture room? The café provides a more relaxed atmosphere at either end of the event.
Writer in residence
A writer in residence can provide advice about writing, celebrate the café in writing, devise writing projects for café customers and subtly promote their own work.
 Café as gallery
The café displays artists’ work and sells the pictures, taking a small commission.
Live music
This could be a formal performance, background music or a group busking.
Just networking
This happens almost without any effort. The café becomes a space where creative practitioners choose to meet. The Creative Café Project supports the small guys but just look at what the big guys do too. Just go to the Media City UK Costa and rub shoulders with the BBC.