Photo by Alix Lingford - Taken at STEW, circa 2008

Photo by Alix Lingford - Taken at STEW, circa 2008

 

ITs Time for a change

I am sat in a hotel room, looking out over East Sydney. It’s been 11 years since I started freelancing. And it’s time to shift into something new. Today is my last week as a freelancer. Over the years, I’ve thrown myself into my work. Fought hard for the people I’ve worked with and for. Had some things go amazingly well. Had some things go quite wrong. I’ve weathered the bulk of three burnouts. I’ve even moved across the country in pursuit of a new career. But my time has come and it’s time to move into a new world now. It’s made me stop and think. Leaving freelancing is not something I do easily, it’s been a way of life for me that’s allowed me to travel all over the world and to work on some pretty unusual projects. It’s also a life that absolutely suited me for a long time. Freedom to choose where and when I work was always the thing I focused in on when I decided to go freelance, but I totally lost sight of how to utilise that power and for a long time just worked all the time. Weirdly, for the last 3 years, I’ve worked a self enforced 9-5. And it’s been great. I’ve learned a lot of lessons about how to manage being a freelancer. You can read more about that here, here and here.

So this is in no way about why freelancing is bad. I’m not leaving because it’s bad. Because it really isn’t. Its just right for some people. And not right for others. This is a farewell letter to the last 11 years, as I turn my focus to a new challenge and a new set of horizons. It’s not comprehensive. Lord knows I’d need another 11 years to remember every inch of what I’ve seen and done.

A list of awesome memories. In no particular order

I have seen opera performed to order from a trolley, on a roundabout, outside the Norwich Puppet Theatre.

I’ve stood in a freezing cold, old handbag factory, which was reanimated by the passion and love of an intrepid band of artists and friends. We called it STEW and it was awesome.

I designed a set, for Hannah Walker and Chris Thorpe, which was commented on by Lyn Gardner in one of the series of incredible reviews for The Oh Fuck Moment. It was mainly made from scrunched up print outs and a plastic aeroplane.

I’ve dressed up for an interview, and then fired an airhorn at unsuspecting audience members. While Dot Howard and Holly Bodmer climbed down a spiral staircase on their backs. 

I worked in a bar. An amazing bar that looms pretty heavy in my heart and put up with me working on all of these things and taking time off work. The Playhouse Bar in Norwich. If you’ve never been, go. To Norwich and the Playhouse Bar.

I saw Dan Canham perform 30 Cecil Street on the last night of Forest Fringe. And few performances have moved me, in the same way since.

I have stood on top of the roof of the Bristol Old Vic, hanging festoon for Emma Bettridge. And getting my hands covered in bird crap. For which I earned the fond nickname of “Jimmy Shitpaws”.

I carted speakers up the stairs of a house in Edinburgh, not knowing that those speakers would then be used to help Lucy Ellinson, Chris Thorpe and Steve Lawson unleash #TORYCORE unto a suburban living room.

I have sat next to the amazing Sara Ellis, drinking a beer at the Edinburgh Fringe, as she said “Do you know what Luke, I think you’re going to be a Producer”.

I ran a teeny tiny gallery beneath a pub in Norwich. That could not have been what it was without the generosity, kindness and open hearts of the artistic community of the city.

I sold my whole record collection and moved to Bristol. 

I have been naked in a bag, on stage, with Jamie Wood.

I have seen a 24 hour, 24 day, non-stop musical performance come to life in an old church. Inside a building constructed by the incredible Andrew Cross.

I’ve spent a whole day drinking with Javaad Alipoor. In Vancouver. Surrounded by people in Halloween costumes, while we were both jet-lagging pretty hard.

I was on the radio for 11 days straight. And out each night during 3 Mayfests. I discovered an unhealthy love for Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark. And godammit we played it three times at the party to mark the end of the festival.

I watched a man cover himself head to toe in clay and paint. On the altar of a Catholic church. And then sculpt clay breasts onto himself before flinging the paint and clay EVERYWHERE. And when everyone was gone, I had to mop that altar.

I have spent 3 wonderful weeks with a cohort of other amazing people who make things happen, all over the globe. Thank you CPI crew.

I have cried on numerous occasions, watching the amazing people I work with bring their visions to life on stages, streets and screens. And watching art of all kinds that I’ve wished I’d played a part in making happen.

I have been frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted, furious, anxious, stressed. 

I have been elated, overjoyed, privileged and very, very happy.

I have held all of these emotions, and more, for the people and projects I’ve worked on in the last 11 years. 

I have forgotten a lot. I have had an absolute blast. And I feel very lucky. 

WHATS NEXT

I’m leaving all of this behind because a job I’ve always wanted has come up. And I’ve been very lucky to be asked to take it on. From June onwards I will be taking on a full time role as the Studio Community Lead at the Pervasive Media Studio. It’s a shift from a focus on product, and towards a focus on process and play. Towards holding and crafting a space for an incredible array of technologists, creatives, makers, thinkers, performers and more. The studio is a place where magic happens and I get to help craft the space, the magic it makes and the people who play, work and create in it. And I follow in the lofty footsteps of Verity McIntosh and Zahra Ash-Harper. If you want to know more about it all, or you simply want to say hi, you can get me on luke.emery@watershed.co.uk

Thanks for reading