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A different perspective : OFFF 2023

The team flew out to Barcelona for a 3 day event at the OFFF festival this year. As Studio Manager, you could argue that this event could be a little tedious for me, that I had no real place being there and might even be a waste of time. Yep, you could argue all those things and I won’t deny that at times, I did feel like a fish out of water, like an utter imposter and sometimes I didn’t have a clue what was going on. However, I decided early on that I would take a different perspective on the whole experience, one that I could relate to in my role and take learnings from. 

There were three main takeaways I was on the lookout for;

1 – How different studios work and if there are any common denominators for their successes. 

2 – Amongst such a range of guest speakers, could I find one that I would get excited about?

3 – Observing the team, how they connected with each other and discovering the things that made them tick. 

I’m happy to report that the festival didn’t disappoint.

I often found myself having a little wander about the venue trying to soak up the atmosphere and it was fascinating to hear the snippets of conversations that were bubbling up. It was so nice to hear everyone supporting each other, championing each other’s work, educating themselves and leaving any egos behind. All the guest speakers were exactly the same. The event was an opportunity for all to just be amongst others with like-minded curiosity and philosophies, mixed with the sunshine (and the occasional beer) made the whole adventure absolutely joyous. 

It was interesting to see how most talks followed a similar formula, not particularly focussing on the body of work at first, but a good proportion of time spent discussing who the team was, their ethos, their values and what that stood for. All of this seemed vital to their operation and how they approached their projects. So of course it’s understandable that this would be the starting point to any introduction about their work and the collective creative talent behind it. Which in turn, helped to answer my lookout learning number one; How different studios work and if there are any common denominators for their successes.

My takeaway on this is to find out who you are and don’t shy away from it, because it will underpin everything you do.

The common denominator for this seemed to be: culture + curiosity + collaboration = creativity. 

There were such a vast array of talents and talks on offer and I bobbed along to quite a few that the team were keen to see. All were inspiring, provided nuggets of information and something to bring a smile to your face. Unfortunately for me, I was struggling to connect with them. I couldn’t find that thing, that hook, that feeling of wanting to know more and feeling like there was a fresh take on things that I could understand. It was beginning to worry me that somewhere along the line through my many years of planning scheduling that I been had creatively deadened, until the very last talk on the very last day which I had circled a name in the programme that had intrigued me when I was back in the studio, on a drizzly afternoon in Manchester when I was doing some initial research into the speakers on offer. Cut to the present day, I had completely forgotten why I’d chosen it and no one else had it on their list (which again, worried me). 

I headed over with some of the team who had decided to join me and the whole walk over wracking my brain of why I’d chosen this particular session and who I was about to end the festival experience with. Within one minute of the seminar starting, I was captivated. Javier Jean was my person. It was a bonkers presentation and one I thoroughly enjoyed, completely understood and left me wanting to find out more. Something I actually connected to. Phew! Finally number two on my lookout list was ticked and another, slightly surprising, learning was made…trust your own voice. It might not be to everyone’s taste but if you actually listen to it, it is most likely to be leading you in the right direction. 

Now number three on the lookout list, Observing the team, how they connected with each other and discovering the things that made them tick, is something to be kept a little underwraps but it was genuinely lovely to see the team coming together, having some fun and getting their kicks from all the creative banter on offer. I could definitely see each individual’s personality come to the forefront and their approach to the whole event. Something I knew already but it reinforced how talented they all are and it’s a privilege to work with them. Knowing how they all work can only help us grow from strength to strength.

Although my perspective is different, it was probably one the rest of the team weren’t too concerned about and if the takeaways I’ve learnt help in a small way to cultivate the team’s unique talents then this trip will have definitely paid dividends. 

OFFF, what an opportunity. Barcelona was a blast – let’s do it again!