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Wednesday 22 March 2017

This is how a collaborative person works: 1. keep the camera rolling

(This post draws heavily upon the experiences of Paul Macalindin as described in his book Upbeat, which chronicles his inspiring work with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq. To read more posts in this series go to the March to August 2017 Blog Archive on your right.)

'Since 2010 Gill's presence had been constant. In making her documentary, she was following the golden rule: just keep it rolling. With enough patience, one never knew what one could capture.'

From Upbeat: the Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq by Paul Macalindin

Gill Parry was the documentary maker who was making a film about the development, experiences and achievements of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq. Paul is describing her 'keeping the camera rolling' whilst the orchestra, exhausted after a long trip from Iraq to Edinburgh', is making the final coach trip from Edinburgh Airport to the college that would be their base for the majority of their 2012 UK tour.

Keeping the camera rolling not only increased Gill's chance of capturing an unexpected insight or happening but also contributed to the developing chronicle of the NYOI, which Paul and others were constantly updating and sharing through the traditional written word, websites and blogs and social media.

Maintaining such a chronicle, especially through the above diverse mix of media, obviously helped the orchestra publicise its aspirations and achievements and raise its profile. It also served another arguably even more important purpose: it helped the diverse mix of partners who were maintaining and developing the orchestra to capture and act upon comments, opinions, feelings and incidents that might otherwise have gone by unnoticed, enabling timely advantage to be taken of valuable insights and opportunities.

For example Paul, early on during his work with the NYOI, was careful to capture the ideas, opinions, hopes, dreams and desires of his young players. These were used as the foundations of an initial strategy which gave direction to the development of the orchestra and a focus for its ongoing story: it would be not only a safe place to learn about and perform music but also a vehicle to demonstrate the hopes and ambitions of its young people and their commitment to integrating Iraq firmly into the modern global community. 

This clear statement of intent, the core meaning gained from the mouths and minds of the players themselves and captured by diverse media, played a not insignificant part in defining what was unique about the NYOI and demonstrating why it merited a place alongside other more established and accomplished youth orchestras at prestigious music festivals. Festival and concert organisers took note and the NYOI was duly invited to perform at Beethovenfest in Germany and at a series of prestigious concerts by leading European national youth orchestras at the Grand Theatre de Provence. The Scottish Government were also persuaded to 'put their money where their mouth was' and fund an NYOI trip to Edinburgh.

If the players words had been spoken but unrecorded and unchronicled the passions and motivations of the players and the unique purpose of the NYOI would have lain latent and undiscovered; NYOI's invitations would have gone elsewhere.

So, make sure you keep a detailed, ongoing chronicle of the development and achievements of your collaboration; make notes and gather information as if preparing to write a book. Do not forget to gather and record the values, beliefs, dreams and desires that are driving and motivating your partners as they seek to develop and achieve; make these the preface to your chronicle. Then use the insights and opportunities you gain to realise your collaboration's potential.

Paul Macalindin did exactly this. The notes he made about his work with the NYOI and the huge amount of correspondence and other records he gathered and kept formed the basis of 'Upbeat', his definitive chronicle of the NYOI. They also enabled him to recognise and take advantage of insights and opportunities quickly, at the times and places they would have best impact.


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