Streatham Arts Festival founded by Landmark Education graduate

By Tom / January 18, 2007

mel.jpgI am the out-going voluntary Director and Founder of the Streatham Festival, an event thatstreatham_festival_2005_logo.gif originally grew out of my participation in Landmark Education’s Self Expression and Leadership Program 5 years ago. At that time I had already led many successful projects but deep inside did not consider myself to be a “real Leader”, whatever that was.

At the start of the Self Expression and Leadership Program (SELP) we were invited to create a project that would create a new future for any community. I decided to work with my local community but immediately saw a lot of barriers, at that time I knew no-one in Streatham, not even my next-door neighbours. Streatham had no designated arts venue. Not only was I already hugely busy, I was secretly cynical about the notion of “community”. I was also surprised to discover that underneath that, I was scared that no-one would want to be involved with me: a few years previously I had worked hard to get a voluntary project off the ground and failed. I was afraid to step out and fail again. With the support of Mark, my coach, I began to ask local people to help me create some sort of arts event which at the time I imagined would be a one hour, one-off event.

The course leader Kuljit Bamra was one of the most joyful and inspiring people I have ever met. The support of others on the course was also invaluable. We were a pretty varied lot: from those who had been highly successful in life already, to those who were tentatively exploring their dreams. Together we shared our visions and our fears.

From the start I learned new, more inclusive ways of working with people. My thinking around working in teams andstreatham_children.jpg consulting with communities began to alter radically. I found to my surprise that people cared deeply about their local environment and wanted to contribute. Sometimes asking people to be involved felt embarrassing and I kept feeling like I was not a “real Leader” and my project wasn’t important or large-scale enough. Despite these feelings, I took action and when I started getting great results, I began to think and act in new ways.

To cut a long story short, my SELP project culminated in the creation of a one day community festival in 2002 which now in 2006 has grown to a 10 day affair, with major sponsors, over 50 events per year, a part-time paid co-ordinator and a team of around 30 core volunteers who are now the ones who make it happen and grow year on year. It is now absolutely the creation of the community and would not thrive without them.

streatham-festival-1.jpgI went on to do the Landmark Team Management & Leadership Program (TMLP) which was invaluable in supporting me in dealing with challenges such as the rapid growth and evolution of the festival, staying committed when I felt overwhelmed, becoming a more publicly accountable person and managing a large volunteer team in my spare time.

Through the Self Expression and Leadership Program I learned and experienced things that I continue to draw on daily. As well as discovering my own authentic expression of leadership, I also expanded my love of people and, which has brought a lot of joy to my life.

Mel Larsen

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