Continuing the story of us. We’ve just left our jobs.
It’s November 1996 and we feel like we’ve just done the bravest thing we will ever do. And we also feel like we’re kind of ‘in recovery’ from having been employed by others for so long. Some mornings this feels exhilarating, but others our new status of ‘self-employed’ feels dangerously close to ‘unemployed’.
Sarah reacts to this by being practical. She does some of the marketing work her previous employer, Family Housing in Manchester are continuing to pay her to do. And she also sets up ‘a sense of place’ properly as a partnership (at first, then we become a limited company later on). Finding us an accountant, so everything’s straight and proper from the off. One day she also rings up the local office of Business Link, a national organisation who offer help to start up companies, to see what they might be able to do for us. Whoever answers listens to Sarah’s explanation of what we’re up to, immediately says, ‘That’ll never work!’ – and refuses to even consider giving us any money for the fax machine we’re thinking might be essential. We never approach anybody for funding for our business again.
I react to the ‘in recovery’ feelings by taking some time off work altogether. I’ve worked for over twenty years at this point, so have more to get over.
First I go and spend a week in Amsterdam with Alinda, a new friend Sarah had met at a retreat she went to in France at the end of the summer. Alinda has since then been over to stay with us and suggests that a few days exploring a new place with a bit of native guidance might be better for me than hanging around Liverpool getting used to not having a job. And it is.
I then travel up to Scotland with our friend Janet to stay with her and her family for a few days. Janet’s just started a new job in Edinburgh after working through ‘Finding the work you love’ with me. And while I’m there we go to where she’s working, in Craigmillar, and start thinking what a sense of place might be able to help out with there. More on this next episode.
Back in Liverpool as 1997 begins we widen the events we run for individuals interested in having more creative lives. In fact we call it our ‘Personal Programme’ and start running it in Manchester as well as Liverpool.
There’s our basic ‘One Day’ event about ‘Turning your life into a creative adventure’. We also try out ‘Finding the work you love’ for groups (but find it runs better for individuals). We continue with ‘Home’, sometimes literally an ‘in your house’ clearing and designing day, or other times as a group workshop. We start running a whole course called ‘Creativity’, six weekly sessions with paints, cameras, textiles, Sarah’s sewing machine, musical instruments, my portastudio multi-track recorder. Anything we can think of to help people unleash their inner creativity. And I run a week-end programme a couple of times called ‘Midlife’ with our friend Judi Ledward, one of the original group who’d helped us test out our ideas for a sense of place. We’re both over 40, so this one’s about using your growing wisdom to have a richly creative midlife, rather than the crisis you might be expecting.
We enjoy running these sessions, and learn a lot from doing so. But looking back now I mainly remember the hard work involved in selling them to individual people. There was no internet, no Facebook, no Twitter (and we didn’t have a computer anyway). And so our selling is from Sarah’s hand-drawn leaflets in shops and cafés, and lots of phone calls. But we are in business.
And then we get married.
It just feels right. Though we’ve been living together for four years, leaving our jobs means we are now literally depending on the skills of each other. And it reminds us of a line from ‘America’ by Paul Simon, one of our favourite songs:
‘Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together.’
So we set a date, or rather, dates. And we choose a place, or rather, places. Because in these days you can still only get married in England in churches and registry offices. Churches are out, for atheists like us. So we decide to have a small, formal wedding at a registry office. We pick Manchester, because that’s where the two people we want to be our witnesses work.
Then we hire a place where we’ve worked, up in Yorkshire, for a bigger event. Here we run the ceremony ourselves with friends and some family.
During the event we perform a new song, written specially for the day, called ‘This Passion’. Me on singing and scratchy guitar, Sarah on cello, and Jane, a college friend of Sarah’s, on proper guitar:
‘Who would have thought such small beginnings
would grow into this passion’
Next episode, collaging the future in Scotland and Liverpool.