Tomorrow I’m embarking on an adventure. The Ruby Dolls are off to Edinburgh for a month to perform our show, Rubies in the Attic, at the Edinburgh Fringe.
It has made me think about the huge adventure of the last three and a half years, and about teams and when you can’t do things on your own.
I was reading Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform, recently, about how to use social media to get noticed in a noisy world. There was an interesting chapter about building your team (or your “pit crew”) which looked at things like admin support, personal management, agents etc. And as I read the chapter, I thought, “irrelevant!”. Not just because those particular roles seem unimportant right now, but more importantly, how can you build a team you can’t pay?! How can you persuade people to join you on a journey when you don’t really now where it’s headed?!
And then I remembered The Ruby Dolls.
We started meeting up together three and a half years ago to sing some close harmony songs from the 1940s, thinking we’d get gigging and making some money. Only a while later we decided we were much more excited about being a theatre company than a band, and so we started making theatre. We have ploughed hours, days and weeks of our lives into this company, around other jobs which enable us to pay our rent. It’s a serious level of commitment, week in, week out, for hardly any money, for so long.
And we’re all quite different. Which is a way of saying we don’t always get on. There are tensions, recurring disagreements, moments you want to shake each other. I once spent a whole week of full-time rehearsal seething with unspoken rage (learning: this is never helpful).
We had some help this last year, in the form of an amazing coach called Martin Howden, who took us through Myers-Briggs profiles and team dynamics and strategic planning.
And then we’ve assembled other people, seriously talented people, who have joined in, for similarly minuscule financial rewards. A virtuoso Musical Director! A shrewd & experienced Producer! A gorgeous & gifted Director! And now a Company Manager! (This is no mean feat given that working with four passionate and headstrong Ruby Dolls is no walk in the park). How have we done it? We found them through mining our friends and contacts and advertising in Arts Jobs. But I’ve no idea how we persuaded them to join the adventure.
There is no team I have ever worked so intensely with, or who know so fully what I am like to work with (apart from the husband). And I am totally convinced that what we have produced together is miles better than what any of us could have achieved alone. My husband always says that the deepest friendships are often forged through a shared task. Turns out he’s onto something.
There’s no way of knowing where things go from here, but before we head up north I am just pausing to celebrate our brilliant (unpaid) team. This would be a rubbish adventure alone.