When I received the first message from Kate, I was about to board a plane that took me from London back to Milan. Reading her mail and discovering her amazingly stimulating job made my heart feel even heavier at the idea of being unable to spend more time in that beautiful city, with all its art and culture opportunities. Kate works with the arts, and she does it in an interesting way. If you want to find out more about the art project she is involved in, and the invitation she throws out to the whole of the Expatclic community, click here. However, I strongly suggest you read the whole of Kate’s article, because it is generously rich in ideas, emotions, feelings and tips on adjusting to life abroad and making it meaningful. Kate has been an expat herself, in Singapore, and she creatively managed to fill that time abroad with fun activities, interesting discoveries, and lots of human passion. The same passion she puts today in her fascinating job. I prompt you and strongly recommend you to consider becoming an active part in the amazing project she is about to share. Thanks a lot Kate, and good luck Arts Alliance!
My name is Kate Timperley, I am 37, English and married. I have been lucky enough to have a very diverse and interesting career (and life!) thus far, from working at the BBC and MTV, to the Museum of London, managing a small start-up focusing on business and human rights, recruiting celebrities to support charities, and now working for Arts Alliance, the leading producer, financier, distributor and marketer of Event Cinema worldwide, working alongside amazing organisations such as the Royal Opera House, the Royal Ballet, the Globe Theatre, The National Gallery, the Royal Academy, MoMA, Tate Modern and many others.
One of the most interesting professional experiences I have enjoyed however, was some three years living and working in Singapore for the philanthropic arm of an investment bank, as part of a small team managing an art prize, Freedom to Create – celebrating artists who use their work to make social change. Sadly it is no longer in existence, but it was an amazing experience – from creating two week-long festivals in Cairo and Cape Town, comprising of concerts, art exhibitions, film festivals and panel discussion (including most memorably, the inspirational Graca Machel talking about women’s rights in Africa during our time in Cape Town), to meeting artists just released from prison where they’d been sent as punishment for expressing their opinions through art, music, film or theatre.
I felt incredibly lucky to get the opportunity to add to my professional experience in Singapore – my husband got his job at a bank there first, and we were in the middle of making plans for me to join him as a ‘trailing spouse’, as my professional experience didn’t seem to fall into the area that most expats work within in Singapore. But working was very much only part of my experience as an expat, and I strove very hard to strike a balance that would make being so far from home meaningful and worthwhile!
I went from thinking I would be having to find things to fill my time – definitely a change – to working five full days in a challenging, creative and entrepreneurial (and at times, far more stressful!) environment but was determined that would not be all my expat experience would be comprised of.
The most useful piece of advice I got about moving abroad was just to think it through a bit before you go – not just the practicalities, but the emotional impact. Make a list of what you already know makes you happy and how you’re going to fulfil that – in my case, for example, I knew I absolutely wouldn’t be giving up singing in a choir, as I’d been doing so for the last ten years, and found and made plans to try three before I arrived!
Equally, I made a deliberate effort to find things that would push me out of my comfort zone – all I can say is, my husband (and I?!) still laugh at my efforts at rock climbing in Thailand, indoor sky diving in Singapore and my falling out of a tree (unhurt!) on an adventure trail in Penang…
Some of my most precious memories are from those trips that being far from home offered us (if you have the opportunity to travel, then do – certainly going from London to living in a city state –- where you can travel from one end to the other in 45 minutes – sometimes gave me itchy feet). I cherish the times we were up close to orangutans in Borneo, looking out from the top of Mount Fuji in Japan, and weaving my way on a bicycle between the crazy traffic in Vietnam and wondering if I’d make it out alive. I can definitely say that being an expat broadens the mind, solidifies relationships and creates incredibly powerful memories.
I’m also grateful for the many friends I made in Singapore. My team at Freedom to Create gave me new friends from Australia, Ireland, India, America and Italy – and I am still good friends with those I met in a similar situation to me who could help me through the times when I missed home and was struggling to adjust, who REALLY understood why I missed the cold and the seasons, rather than wondering why I kept going on about the weather all the time…what can I say, I am British, I can’t help it.
But one of the most meaningful elements of my time in Singapore was the efforts I made to really be a part of society – friendships with neighbours, visiting food courts with local friends, volunteering at the local library to help Singaporean children learn to read, attending weddings of friends and learning that you have to really embrace the local culture, not in a tokenistic way, but really to learn and understand the country kind enough to allow you to call it home for a few years.
Going to London ended up not being too tough a decision – I had been made redundant from my job, and with a second nephew just born, the call of home was very difficult to ignore. It took some adjustment with my husband needing to organise a transfer back to his London office, so we spent 4 or 5 months apart, but I was lucky to quickly find a new job back in London which helped me focus and occupy my mind again.
It was a change to move from a very internationally focused company to a very British one, and not have to worry about time zones, or costs of services or products in other countries, and in fact to wind down a notch from being switched on what felt like 22 hours a day sometimes. But the same principles applied – throw yourself into everything, do your best and be passionate about what you do. I was lucky enough to be working in a tight-knit and welcoming team, who were curious about my international experience and encouraged me to bring the kind of bigger picture thinking to new projects that I found I’d developed when working abroad. I believe having to put yourself ‘out there’ professionally by working in a truly international team gives you a unique outlook. It was the right decision to come back – there is much I miss about Singapore, not least the blue sky, but I felt I had ‘done my time’ there and just needed to be back in London for a whole range of reasons.
I moved from the charity I worked for, to working for Arts Alliance – returning to my first love and passion, the arts. I can honestly say I feel like this job was made for me! Arts Alliance are the leading producer, financier, distributor and marketer of Event Cinema worldwide, and we have already distributed over 70 Event Cinema releases to more than 10,000 screens in over 70 countries, allowing fans of opera, art, music, ballet and theatre to engage with the content they are most passionate about.
I was brought on board to develop an Ambassador programme – to spread the word that people can see global quality arts content round the corner from home, for the price of a cinema ticket. I am absolutely passionate about opening up access to the arts to as many people as possible, so it’s a pleasure to be establishing this programme, open to anyone, where people use their online and ‘real life’ networks to let those in their communities know about the screenings happening across the world. We have over 100 Ambassadors so far, from students, to expats, to retired people – from opera and ballet aficionados, to those that have never really experienced the arts before but want to use this a way to get them started. In return for helping us spread the word, we offer a whole range of benefits to our Ambassadors, from free tickets to screenings, to access to behind the scenes content, to exclusive merchandise, the chance to make new like-minded friends who share your passions and the chance to work alongside the prestigious organisations we work with such as the Royal Opera House, the Royal Ballet, the Globe Theatre, the National Gallery, Royal Academy, MoMA, Tate Modern and many others.
One of the joys of the scheme is that I get to work individually with each Ambassador. We totally get that some people have more time than others, so there is no minimum time commitment, rather the chance to opt in when it suits, to develop a deeper understanding of an art form you may be hugely familiar with, or have never encountered before. Some of our Ambassadors are writing blogs and reviews of the screenings they see, spreading the word online, others are working with their local universities, choirs, ballet schools, opera clubs, orchestras and more to create pre-screening events and performances at their local cinema to help enhance and differentiate the experience for customers and ensure people come back again and again once they see how joyful Event Cinema can be! I would have loved the chance to be involved in a project such as this when I was living abroad – the Ambassador Network are already connecting with each other, making friends across the globe thanks to a united shared passion that more people deserve to see and experience the arts. Others are meeting those in the same city who share their passions but who would never have otherwise had the chance to meet and already bonding over the next opera, ballet or music experience that they will both share.
The first step would be for anyone interested to be in touch with me (or you can download the PDF with lots of details about the programme)and I can tell you a bit more about what we are already doing in your part of the world, and what support we can offer and what support we can give. We are full of ideas and plans, and would love to share them with you! Be in touch, and we can create a way of working together that suits you.