I guess there must come a time in every twenty-first century network’s life when the need for a blog becomes an inevitability, and not only for fashionable reasons. Launching this CCG blog feels kind of grown-up somehow, but it also feels down-with-the-kids. What the creation of this blog does reflect is the fact that the horrors of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have driven the CCG from being an in-person gathering to a becoming an online phenomenon. I am at this point resisting the urge to post up a screenshot of all our tiled faces on Zoom, just to prove it is true. But it is.
I have to say that when lockdown descended on us in March 2020, I had to scrap all forward conference room bookings at our much loved Arnos Manor hotel, and ask booked speakers if they would mind doing their thing on line. This sudden switching of arrangements made me fearful, as I felt then that much of the value of our regular meetings lay in the opportunity to meet face-to-face, share chip sandwiches and flaccid salad, and munch over what provocations our visiting speakers had planted. I did not think that our members would take easily to this transition to a two-dimensional digital experience; nor did I think that the CCG would remain a priority on their minds, given all else that had been disrupted by the pandemic.
I need not have worried. Far from the need for us to gather together going away, it became apparent that in the face of all of the challenges posed to our personal and professional lives, the wish to to get huddle in any form remained as strong as ever. In fact the move to online, in liberating the CCG from the geographical constraints posed by being locked into the Bristol location, has allowed us to draw upon a far wider range of speakers from across the world. And has attracted in new members who are more than happy to become a part of our group, without having to commit to making the far-flung trip to the South West of England, which as we all know is a two-days stage-coach ride away from London. And a one day ride from Exeter.
At first, old stagers said that they were prepared to live with online presence as a somewhat second-best interim solution, while the lockdowns blew over and normal in-house services could resume. However, as our Zoom years have progressed, the nostalgic cries for a prelapsarian return to the container that is the Gallery Room have muted, replaced instead by an excitement at the new horizons online has revealed. For our new members who have known nothing else, then they have been happy enough with the online experience not only to sign-up for more of the same through to next year, but to invite their colleagues at similar career stages to come along too. I must say that it is most gratifying to learn that the culture of open inquiry and challenge while being supportive of each other has persisted into this new format.
I anticipate, then, that as we progress into 2021 and beyond, that we will move towards a hybrid configuration, where regular monthly meetings will be augmented by a number of in-person gatherings a year to allow us to breathe the same air once more, and merrily kick over coffee cups strewn across the open-U circle of rickety chairs. But meanwhile I am delighted at the uptake of speaker invites from all over the world – my, how I am resisting with all my might and main the temptation to use that much-abused term ‘global’- and look forward to a rich and relational year together.
So where does this blog fit in? Well, it is early days, but in addition to serving as a container for updates such as this current rambling, this blog also offers opportunities for the curating of offerings from members and speakers that they feel will be of interest to our members. These offerings are likely to be in written form, but could also be imagistic, in audio or video form, or free-form interpretative jazz. It is really up to you. Let me know if there is something you wish to post, great or small, and I will ensure that it gets up there. Looking forward to it. And welcome to the CCG Blog.