A Banker in the Sandbox is a story about a man who discovers his creative potential.
The creativity workshop was held at a lecture room at one of the renowned London drama schools. The cab driver told me he would often take acclaimed theatre artists to give classes there. Kate Mitchell, Sam Mendes, Mark Ravenhill – to name a few from his extensive list. I, of course, didn’t tell him I had barely heard of those names. Was I one of them, he then asked me respectfully.
‘I am a huge theatre fan,’ he added.
‘Oh, that’s marvellous,’ I smiled uncomfortably. ‘I’m afraid I’ve got nothing to do with art…’
‘Mightn’t you be on the board?’ the driver eloquently inquired.
‘Oh no, not at all.’ I knew he was determined to find out the purpose of my visit. ‘I’m here for a workshop, well, a class.’ I explained as I scrabbled around in my wallet to find the money to pay him for the ride.
‘Corporate training of some sort then?’
‘Yeah, well kind of.’ Already anxious about the workshop, I was relieved to finally escape his inquisition.
Pacing down the bleak grey brick corridors, searching for the room in which the workshop was to be held, I couldn’t stop thinking that I was probably way overdressed. I wrestled with my inner critic, fearful it was going to devour me alive:
No one wears a tailor-made shirt or Sunday shoes to a creativity workshop / I told you put on your trainers / They will probably ask you what you do – and what will you say? / I’ll tell them I’m a history teacher / But history teachers don’t wear tailor-made shirts / I’m certain some of my teachers at Harrow did / And, for God’s sake, who will notice?
A06. This was the room. I was breathing heavily as if I had just run a marathon. Yes, traders are known for their ability to endure stress and live off adrenaline, and even my boss once referred to me as ‘that cold-blooded City bull’. Stress on the trading floor, however, is very different from creativity-related stress. How so? You’re much more exposed and vulnerable when you attempt anything creative. You might lose or earn millions of pounds for a client when you trade, but your colleagues or clients may never find out who you really are; whereas creativity leaves little room for anonymity.
Chairs in a circle, lots of women and art materials on the floor – this was the immediate impression I had on entering the room.
‘Hello there,’ said a hippie-looking woman, wearing a red-velvet dress, which brushed the floor as she moved around the room. ‘Come’n in!’
The room itself was shabby, the walls were covered in white sheets of paper, which, I assumed, we would have to write on later, and other attendees, mostly middle-aged ladies, were chatting in small groups.
The woman who greeted me walked barefoot and her hair was tousled. Her arms were covered in colourful bracelets and she had probably decorated herself with all of the necklaces she had in her jewellery box – a bunch of lucky stones, a pocket watch, a crucifix, some pearls… A typical creative, I thought critically. I also noticed that I attracted the attention of everyone in the room and, although the women were warmly smiling, I was convinced they were also judging me.
‘My name is Annabelle. I’m the workshop leader,’ she said, taking the register, ‘and you must be… Patrick?’
‘It’s always good to have some masculine energy in the room.’ She gestured for me to come into the circle and choose a seat.
‘Do men not often come to these things?’ I asked Annabelle.
‘My husband does,’ interjected one of the younger women.
‘Oh really?’ I said hopefully, checking out the lady.
‘Yes, he’s a painter,’ she replied, crushing my recovering confidence. ‘He’s so talented… You should see his work…’ Her body was toned, she moved gracefully and spoke with a hint of a Scandinavian accent.
‘And what do you do?’ I asked her.
‘Me? Well, not much at the moment, I have two children.’
‘I see…’ I picked a chair and sat down.
‘Well, I used to work in a hedge fund before,’ she added.
‘Did you?’ My face lit up immediately: people from finance were eligible to be creative (and I chose to ignore the fact that she was now a housewife).
‘Okay, everyone!’ Annabelle, who, for a while, had been observing our conversation, addressed the room. ‘Let’s get started! Please take up your seats and role up your sleeves.’ Her voice echoed through the room. There was something, playfulness or a sense of ease, with which she began to command the space, that not only intrigued me but also forced me to finally smile. I was also excited to find out that I happened to have chosen a seat next to the painter’s wife.