It had been a long time coming but was now definite – the local branch of the bank was to close and all the staff were to relocate. The manager was tired and depressed with the whole business! The bank had agreed at national headquarters that they wanted to take part in a pilot programme of Building Community through Arts with a residential home, a charitable trust, a school and a community arts studio. One of the younger members of staff was wanting some kind of change from banking – he wanted to do something in the community but had little confidence in his freedom to choose and in his capacity to do much for anyone. The manager nominated this frustrated young colleague to be the one to take part on the bank’s behalf, and left for a much deserved week off.
Uncertain what to expect the young man turned up as requested in casual clothes but looking all the more awkward for it. “I am not creative you know – I never have been! What’s more I would get into trouble in my line of business if I were! You must have heard what people say about ‘creative accounting! As for dealing with different sorts of people – why I get enough experience of that in the bank – endless queues of people who do not know what they want! It drives me mad. I would much rather work behind the scenes!”
Throughout a day unlike anything he had experienced before he was introduced to an experimental workshop with black ink, a group of artists giving him insight into a completely different way of living and working, basic facilitation training to enable him to support others to develop their creativity and finally he was able to try out his new skills in a residential home for older people. Once back in the studio he reviewed his day! “I cannot believe I did all that! I feel entirely differently now about myself and others. I cannot wait for the morning so that I can volunteer to be on one of the desks dealing with the people coming in for a whole variety of issues… I really think I know how to connect with them now and I will enjoy the challenge. And I feel so much more creative – I have three new ideas to put to my boss! And I am going to volunteer to sort out all the records in the basement – no one has looked at those for years and it will have to be done!”
On his manager’s return we received a phone call from him. “What on earth did you do to this young man? He is so excited about the training he is persuading everyone else they need to do it too! He has volunteered for a task no one else wanted. He is full of enthusiasm and seems to be entirely different with our customers! What happened? I’ve seen his drawings he did with you – they are so creative. I wish I could do something like that.”
When we told this story in the studio two people said: “I know which young man that was! I noticed him this week – talking to everyone, really drawing everyone out. People were queuing up to get a turn at his counter!”
As for his manager, exhausted with all the reorganisation, he found working with the BCA team on the project outcomes a welcome change to his daily routine. “You have no idea how refreshing it is to think about something positive, where I can make a difference, after spending a whole day, in a series of weeks, on reorganisation, downsizing and giving everyone bad news… It is great to be able to focus on this and realise I can do something good for someone…”
A couple of months later the young man came on another workshop. He told us the bank had posted him to a larger branch, giving him a promotion, and that far from fearing it, he could not wait to show his new colleagues what he could do.
And the last we heard from the young man was this comment: “You haven’t just changed how I see my work – you have changed how I see my life!”