On paying it forward, mentoring and January

Another January Monday, another request to help give someone a leg up into arts.

I am very lucky. My 18 year old self does not know that such a person as I can exist. Much less that I’ll get to be her. This very afternoon I have booked three theatre tickets to three shows all of which I know the origin of, all of which I am excited by because in some way they may inform my own work choices. I know a bit about why and how they have been made. This morning I had a chat with an actor about her next role and I listened to a radio play created by a friend of mine. Somewhere rattling around in my head are 500 words that I will write today for my next piece. Usually on a Wednesday I go to a meeting at the Young Vic theatre and feel comfortable discussing arts, culture and education policy plus Brexit, the environment, other matters of public and personal consequence with arts leaders in BIG IMPORTANT jobs and other people like me. Although it doesn’t always feel like it (because self-doubt and “NO” are occupational hazards), I am here, doing this arts thing.

So when I get that email, the one that no-one ever wrote for me, I always want to help. BUT. The email is coming from someone I know very well, about someone I’ve never met BUT it’s someone who’s already so many steps further ahead than the kid I was and there are so many others who don’t ‘have what I had:  the kid I’m always thinking about has no contacts, isn’t studying in London, did or didn’t grow up in a city, comes from an under-represented group. Those kids are my priority. Not this January kid whose parents have access to me at one remove. So now my impulse to help is compromised. I am committed to diversity and inclusivity. But I am bound by the ties of kinship and friendship to help. Or am I? isn’t that just perpetuating nepotism?

Then again, didn’t I also seek help just last week from two peers to help my January blues?

If you speak Meyers-Briggs you’ll understand what I say when I say I’m big time “P”, so I’m entertaining all kinds of options for this conundrum.

Do I:

a) Say No, I’m too busy (I am) and duck the nepotism issue.

b) Say “Yes, and this is my fee” to cover my freelance time.

b) Say “I’d love to”, drop everything write to the student and set up a meeting….

c) Say Yes but the parents will have to pay me the equivalent time so I can offer a mentoring session to someone from an under-represented group.

d) Say Yes but set up a structure (which I’ve used before) that makes the student do the leg work, requires them to prepare so my time isn’t wasted AND asks the parents to offer the equivalent advice session on their own time (I’m freelance they’re probably not) in their respective field for someone who IS from an under-represented group.

e) Say No, I’m too busy and confront the nepotism issue.

f) other options I’d be interesting in you suggesting…..



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