Arts Leadership Project Report

For my Arts Leadership I planned and created a book that was published, containing letters from a variety of participants in which they wrote to their younger self giving them words of wisdom, advice or just encouragement or insight into what lies ahead. I did not describe what approach the participants were to take when writing this letter, giving them freedom to write anything to their younger self about their life to give a variety of letters in the finished book.

I started my project in February and I planned to finish it in June. While there were a couple of times that my timings were out of sync, I managed to complete my Arts Leadership project on the day I had planned to.

I came across a few problems during the project, while I handed out a great number of letters detailing the project, not as many people as I'd hoped expressed an interest in participating and a few people I asked to take part didn't get back to me at all so I had to rule them out. Even after finding out I'd have less letters than I'd expected, it was difficult to get the letters off those who had said that they would take part. Most of the adults who took part, got their letters back to me quite quickly, however I had more problems with my friends to do their letters, and this was because it was GCSE year and so with the stress, as well as school productions and other activities going on, they often forgot to do a letter and this meant that I ended up not getting letters off a few of my friends whom I had hoped to receive letters from. This meant that I had to keep reminding and pressing the participants to write the letter, offering help when they didn't know what to write, and words of encouragement when they didn't think their letters were long enough/detailed enough/what I was aiming for etc. I then had the problem of not receiving many photographs of the participants - some didn't have photographs from the particular age or didn't know where they were, however others just didn't want to give one, but I had hoped for more photos, so that the book wasn't just words.

I continuously asked people to participate, some quite late in the stage of the project, so that I would have enough letters and I found that in the end, this was the best approach as more people got to know about the project and I found people that had actually expressed interested and truly wanted to participate in this book.

I have to say, my favourite part of this project, was when I opened the package that contained the final book and saw what I had made and put together and seeing all those letters in print. While there is no chance that I could possibly take all the credit for this book, as those who participated in it, had worked hard to produce these letters and had truly written some magnificent and interesting pieces of work, but I am proud of what I achieved, and I'm very glad that I decided to put it together as a book at the end as I now have something to keep, to remind me of this project, and to show that I have been capable of leading a project of my own creation.

Probably, my least favourite part of the project was chasing up those who hadn't completed their letters and trying to find out who would actually participate. I felt guilty for continuously asking and reminding people about these letters, especially at such stressful times of the year, but in the end I'm glad that I did persevere because I am very happy with the outcome.

I had decided to publish a book containing all the letters at the end of the project because it was something more than just asking and collecting in letters, and putting them together on this website. As my project didn't involve leading workshops/classes/exhibitions, I wanted to extend my project that little bit further and I thought that this was the best way to do so. I have never had an actual book put together and printed, never mind published, so this is a personal achievement and a first of mine and I'm glad it was for something that appears to have been quite successful. Many of the people I collected feedback from were impressed with the book when it was shown to them, for example, Lucy said, "the book was very professional looking and well organised", Mr. Massey said, "The book was professional and made the letters seem endorsed", and Jess said, "I thought it looked really professional, expensive and well-made".

All of the feedback I received for this project was positive, with only a few words of improvement. The majority of people said that the book looked professional and that the idea of putting it into a book showed my dedication and interest in the project. People also said that I was organised during the project and made sure to get the letters in when I needed them to be in. Another common piece of feedback was that the idea and the letters were thought-provoking and moving and I agree with this, that it really makes you think about what you'd say to yourself in hindsight. 

One of the most common points for improvement in my project is that there could have been more photos in the book to give variety. Like I've already addressed, this was a difficult one to address as I couldn't demand photos off people, as some people don't like their photos, don't have photos and others don't want photos in the book for legal reasons, so I had to make do with what I received. However I would agree with this statement and would have loved to have been able to put more photos into the book.

I learnt quite a few things during this project; the main one being that planning is essential and you have to persevere and make sure you get what you need to carry out a successful project. In the past when I have done similar things, I haven't planned as much as I did for this, I've never considered myself much of a planner when I'm tackling something on my own, however I'm extremely glad that I didn't take that approach with this as it would has caused a great deal more stress and would have meant that I had lost track of what I was meant to be doing, what I had to do and when I wanted it to get finished by. 

I also learnt more about being a leader - it is all your responsibility. If you want success and a good final product, you need to organise everything, you need to let people know what you're doing, give them all the information they need, and give them contacts for where to go to get more help (e.g. speak to me in person, by email, this website). As a leader you also need to make sure each party is doing what they need to be doing, on time and get the work back in so that you can continue with the project. You're also in charge of cleaning up the project, putting it all together and making sure it is complete. The participants cannot be blamed if something goes wrong, even if they haven't handed in their work, it is up to a leader to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Furthermore, I learnt more about computer software by using the program 'BookSmart' and about the printing and publishing business by investigating different publishers and reading what they do, what's better, and then choosing the properties of my final book (e.g. the sort of paper, the type of book, design).

Something I also found interesting were the letters themselves. When I came up with the idea of this project, I had a set idea of what the letters would be like (mostly based on what I would say to my younger self, in hindsight), however when I received all the letters back, they were all different, they'd all taken different approaches; tackled different subjects in their life at the time, and it's very thought-provoking and makes you realise that everyone is different.

Another problem that came up was once I had received the final book; I noticed an error. On the title pages, I had written 'Letters to your Eleven Year Old Self' on both, whereas one of them should have said 'Sixteen Year Old Self'. This annoyed me at first because it was something I should have picked up on during the editing of the book and something a couple of the participants picked up on when reviewing the final book. The problem I had when I was editing the book was that I was the only one who could check over it for errors and because it wasn't a spelling mistake, the software wouldn't pick up on it. Due to the file format that was specialised to the software, I couldn't send it to someone else who could put a different eye on the book to check for mistakes. This has taught me though, that in situations like this, things need to be checked numerous times before the project is finally finished, and if I were to do this project again, I would definitely check more thoroughly before sending it off to the publishers.

I think another way this project could have been improved was to make a bigger book so that the writing was bigger and therefore clearer, but also to get a wider range of people to write letters. I would have liked to have been more stern in asking for letters back in so that I had a larger number and also to have asked different people. I did contact a couple of people who were in the theatre business, however, most likely due to a busy schedule, they did not reply, so if I were to do this all again, I would spread the project over a longer time span to give myself more time to contact people and get a response, so that I could give even more of a variety in the letters. Or on an even bigger scale, I would have liked to advertise the project on the internet to gain letters from people I don't know to create a bigger collection of letters.

Addressing an earlier issue I would also like to make sure I had more photos if I were to do it again, and if I were to make the book bigger I would have liked to include both a photo of the participant at the given age and present day to show the transition, both in words on paper, and in image. Furthermore, no one used the forum I set up for people to discuss this project, however this was probably because the participant's involvement in this project was quite short and so there was not really any need for it. 

Overall, I have seriously enjoyed myself on this project. It came about when I received for my birthday a book entitled 'Dear Me', and it was a book of letters from celebrities to their sixteen year old self, and I was interested in the idea of giving advice to your younger self and so this project grew from there. The project has taught me lots of things, including life skills, how to be a good leader, how to carry out a good project and a bit about the publishing world, all of which will be, I expect, of great use to me in the future. Creative writing has always been something I have considerably enjoyed, however usually I do it in the form of fiction, and so I have been happy to extend my love of creative writing to that which is in the form of letters rather than plays or stories.

We all wish that we could change a little aspect of our past, and I think these letters may have helped people to accept what they were like, and it has also shown them that they are still a part of who they are today, and how they have grown from that person to the person they are now.