Planning for wellbeing at the 2019 Mudfest Festival


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There was a lot of commentary on the festival being exciting and rewarding, but also a high-stress environment. People would often warn us we will need a holiday after it. 

People in the arts are so passionate about what they do, and it's easy to pour so much of your heart and soul into a project and not take the time to set boundaries.

All too often wellbeing is an afterthought and it's often too little, too late. We wanted to make decisions from a wellbeing perspective from the beginning.

A forward-thinking approach

Bringing the Arts Wellbeing Collective on board was an important step, because while I might have a commitment to wellbeing, they are the experts with the resources and training.

Discussing wellbeing as a team early on meant that we had a shared language to look after each other and hold each other accountable.

Applying a wellbeing lens to all the programming decisions helped us to ensure important measures, such as the team getting enough time off and feasible timelines for artists.

We ensured this was offered early on so artists could also value wellbeing in their creative process.

We must change and evolve to ultimately thrive. We wanted the festival to provide fertile soil to allow our artists to rediscover and push boundaries and support emerging artists to develop and blossom in their practice as they grow and learn, producing new original work in response to their reality.

We are questioning how things are done and starting to prioritise people so they flourish in addition to the art.

Nurturing the connection between the personal and professional

An area of risk was managing expectations as the team was learning to adjust how much they think they can take on, verses what can realistically be achieved in a set time frame.

By being part of Mudfest, emerging artists, producers and festival managers are able to form a wellbeing habit they will take with them into future workplaces and projects.

Making wellbeing a measure of success

I think it's really important to look after a team and the experience of creating art should be a positive one for everyone involved.

It's a huge issue in the arts industry, be it due to low resources or a toxic culture. I've been part of productions where the end result is the absolute pinnacle of success, and it doesn't matter what happens behind the scenes to get there, and I've really disagreed with that approach.

If the process has led to stress and burnout internally, then to me, the final result is not a success, even if it's celebrated externally.

It's key to make mental health part of the process, culture and values - something as simple as asking a team member 'how are you?' can open up space for open communication and proactive planning around work and life.

Planning for wellbeing: prompt questions