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CORA, arterial network… Articulating project management skills in culture sector


Keshi during her presentation

Keshi during her presentation

Arterial Network Nigeria has been holding a series of culture management workshops across the country to equip culture promoters on ways to manage their skills and improve the arts sector. The workshops have since spanned the two cities of Lagos and Port Harcourt.

The Lagos edition, which held at the British Council, Lagos, dealt with risk management for project managers in the arts and culture sector. It looked into a few art events and showed how they could be better managed for optimum results. Programme Chair, Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), organisers of Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF), Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, took participants through the initiation, approach to planning, implementation strategies, control measures and notable achievements of LABAF in the past 17 years. Anikulapo explained that the major problem in Nigeria is that ideas are not allowed to grow and that the reason for starting the platform was to grow ideas, which they have run through thick and thin with the emergence of an engaging platform for dreamers and idea merchants.

Worried about having the same set of people attend literary and art fairs and festivals, not just in Nigeria, but in other countries of the world, CORA directorate introduced concepts that enabled the larger public take ownership of the literary feasts by making them bona fide patrons of the book and artistic wares and treasures of ideas.This, according to Anikulapo, spurred many, who were otherwise apathetic, to begin paying greater attention to the question of literacy through a systematic celebration of the book.

In sharing how his organisation has survived in the past 17 years, Anikulapo said: “Once one edition is gone, the next topic is announced and planning begins. The conception begins immediately, intimating supporters and partners. The second phase is following up on partners, as well as, going into the programme design.”Anikulapo also stated that one of the ways to attract attention and make people turn up for CORA events is to keep its publicity close to the festivals, saying this is because Nigerians are forgetful people.

Director-General, Council for Arts and Culture, Mrs. Dayo Keshi also shared the success story of African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC), as a case study of craft industry and the strategies that have kept AFAC going for nine years. She said although she has only held the position for two years, she has faced challenges that only determination and planning have helped her through the successful two editions of the programme.

While recalling her experience, she said: “When I came on board, government said, ‘sorry, we cannot fund AFAC,’ and I thought such a huge festival, which was my first, and because people have a way of judging others without knowing their problems, I made up my mind that I was going to make sure it happened.”Keshi, however, stated that she set up committees and depended on them to carry out key assignments such as seeking for venues, which is a major issue, and booking in advance.

“I began by cutting down cost and putting to use a land allocated to artists by the government, which had not been put to use,” she said.The choice of the venue, according to Keshi, threw the festival open to all and sundry, saying before now, Eagle Square had played host to national and international events, which made most Nigerians to associate the venue to the elite.Keshi also said her team provided a good venue, adding, “For partners, we built the exhibition spaces as a way of appreciating their contributions, while for other exhibitors, we allocate the space and the prototype for them to build to uniformity, as a way of engaging them. I discovered that when you do everything and ask them to just come and exhibit, after a while it would loose its value.

“Another thing is that we do not compromise on sanitary conditions because any outbreak of disease kills a festival faster that anything.Director of Arts, British Council, Ojoma Ochai, who is also the Director of Lagos Theatre Festival (LTF), said, inspite of limitations in capacity and in terms of budget, the council had to strategise to make the event a success. He drew his examples from the Edinburg festival, one of the biggest festivals in the world, that had over 50 thousand shows in August and about 4.5 million people attending every year.

Ochai said, “For us that is the scale of the possibility, and so at the 2016 festival, we had 19 venues and 109 shows. In 2013, we had 619 shows, 14, 889 people, while in 2016, we had 5,500 shows. So, the idea of wanting to programme the festival was right; even in terms of jobs creation, there is a massive jump between 2013 and 2016.”
Ochai continued: “One of the principles of project management is evidence. We need to be able to show what the impact of these numbers are and the number of new companies that participated because of the energy created.”

Anikulapo making his presentation

Anikulapo making his presentation

THE issue of roles also came up. Cohai said it is usually broken down and handled by different people such as the associate producers, production managers, marketers, volunteers among others. Vendors that handle social media and medical team among others were prominent in her presentation.Ochai noted: “We articulate our concepts in writing every year. That is, we identify what we are doing, where we are doing it and who we are doing it with. All these must be captured within 200 words.

“We need to show the proposed timeline of the activity, including the planning and the actual delivery and the project details in a way that it meets the overall objective, as well as show who our prospective partners are going to be, both in Nigeria and the U.K. We have to put all our targets – how many people are going to come to our festival, the venues, the artists we want to work with, the workshops and what we want to achieve. So, the targets are not just numerical. We propose a budget, which often, at this stage, is a fantasy because we never ever get to stick to it, as things keep changing.”

To further emphasise the importance of early planning, Ochai further stated, “For the 2016 festival, we started to plan in November 2014. The actual work plan has over 460 lines because you have to account for every single action you take, show when you are willing to do it.

“The most important thing to note is efforts versus completion. Putting deadlines only measures completion; it doesn’t take efforts into account, but a call out will tell how long the processes will take. So, somebody needs to write how long each of the plans is going to take so that people could be held accountable for it”.

Ochai, however, warned that work plans and deadlines create the illusion one has a lot of time. “If you can do it now do it, because inevitably, something might come up that will take your time. There is no point in having a work plan if you don’t take it seriously and deadlines are not suggestions – they are deadline. You must also do venue assessment, which must be done every now and then and have a checklist because work plans keep changing.”

And she also advised: “You must always have a contract for everything because those are the terms of relationship. For Lagos State Festival, we sign over 70 contracts. The beauty of planning in details is that if things go wrong you can quickly figure out what to do. For instance, if some unexpected expenditure comes up, you will be able to say where you are going to add or take to make up. We normally put 10 per cent of our funds in contingency, but that doesn’t normally solve the problem. Above all, quick thinking cannot be ruled out. For our 2017 event, we are already at the stage of planning.”

Other presenters on the second day were Project Manager, Arterial Network, Cape town, South Africa, Marie Sachet; Director, Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Lagos, Olabisi Silva; President, Chocolate City Music group, Audu Maikori; Multiple award-winning Nollywood star and film Director Stephanie Linus; CEO, Freedom Park, Lagos, Theo Lawson and Co-founder/ Executive Director iREP International Film Festival, Femi Odugbemi.
The main points of their presentations are early planning, documentation and hard work.

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