I used to devour books of quotations as a teenager. They served as little tasters for the world; what would I be, what would I think and feel, love and do.
One of the quotes I’ve always remembered was “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That was the late great Maya Angelou. (*Blows a kiss to the heavens*) But I’m going to disagree with the formidable Ms Maya. And here is why.
I work in that sprawling seething mass of paupers and visionaries that is ‘The Arts’. I’m somewhere near the bottom with the urchins in fingerless gloves. I’m nearly always broke, sick with anxiety over money, and am petrified of the future. A friend and I joke that we will walk into the sea when we reach a pensionable age, but secretly I’m not so sure we’re joking.
The money I make from my column covers my bus fare into town to work at the bookshop. My hours at the bookshop covers my share of the bills. My salary is like a blanket over a walrus; it just about covers it. The rest of the time I run a theatre company from which I take no pay; everything we make goes into the kitty to make the next show happen. Every now and then I get a bit of freelance work, and I can rest easy for a bit. People say “you’re so busy, you’re doing so well!” They think it must equate to money, that I am remunerated for only allowing myself one night a week of not typing something. Not in my pocket I’m not.
That is not griping, it’s facts. I get my riches elsewhere. People’s response to my writing is like having a ballroom piled high with gold coins. My theatre company has patrons, whose support is a warm hand resting on my head. And we have mentors, in an arts organisation called Metal.
My partner and I had heard about them locally, weren’t sure what they did, but knew they did “interesting things”. They didn’t know us from Eve. But our paths crossed a few times though different things, we were inquisitive, they were friendly, and eventually we got to know them.
One day they sat us down and explained what our options were as an arts company, told us things it would have taken us five years to discover for ourselves. They pointed us to the arts council, read our applications, gave us feedback, came to see our shows, encouraged us, let us use their HQ for our events, vouched for us with other organisations. They escalated our progression in a staggering way. I feel no guilt; we’re good enough, but I sure as heck don’t want to let them down. We have been awarded Arts Council funding three times in as many years and if it weren’t for Metal I would still be thinking the Arts Council was a logo you saw come up at the end of edgy British films. Not something I could be a part of, surely.
There are very real, pragmatic things you can do to help people. Metal nurture, support, and inspire. They get stuck in. They worked our bar when our storytelling night was busy, and cleared up. They have cooked for us and listened to us ramble on.
The riches I get from the part they have played might not ever be money, this is the Arts after all, but I am living a life I love, that is far brighter for their help.
I’ll remember how people make me feel. I feel lucky. I feel charged; valued; determined.
But I’ll remember what they do too. And Metal have done a lot.