‘Our work is exhilarating, but only if we’re standing on stable ground.’

A Conversation with Joff

‘Our work is exhilarating, but only if we’re standing on stable ground.’

We’ve caught up with our General Manager Joff to see what he’s been up to in his first five months. 

What are your day to day tasks as Gecko’s General Manager?

I still feel I am very new to this role, so I’m not quite sure I know exactly what my day-to-day tasks are for Gecko. There are always lots of things to do and quite often something to solve, so it’s hard to simply say “finance, planning, relationships and organisation.”

My job title is General Manager, but in Gecko’s unique and idiosyncratic way the role is probably slightly different from General Managers at many other similar sized arts organisations. My role is to some extent in two halves, the first being about stability, the second growth. The stability half includes company management, company organisation and sensible informed decision-making. Within this I manage our relationship with Arts Council and Ipswich Borough Council, two of our principal funders. I also monitor and maintain the office function of the organisation; ensuring we are timely with all our reporting, payments and systems. I support our Board of Directors to ensure there is a healthy, critical and productive relationship to the making and touring of Gecko work. Much of this work is cyclical, so for example with the Board we meet quarterly, and so papers need to be generated quarterly in advance of meetings. In a sense that answers the ‘day-to-day’ question, there are always tasks to be completed for forthcoming deadlines. I am currently in the middle of our annual Arts Council data return. This is a big survey required by Arts Council to monitor and record what their portfolio organisations are doing to build a big, complex national picture of the arts under their support.

The other half of my job is about growth. This can include new opportunities, new plans for Gecko, new partnerships locally and regionally and to seek out new life! It’s hard to explain this in the notion of ‘day-to-day’ as working in this was is always different, exciting and potentially challenging. I try to divide my time half and half between stability and growth, and I think this is the best approach, certainly for me personally but also for Gecko.

We are always ambitious and want our work to be as exhilarating as possible, but this is only feasible if we are standing on level and stable ground.

How have you made the role your own in your first five months here?

I always try to bring my enthusiasm, enjoyment and energy to any role I undertake, and really that’s what I hope I have left with Gecko so far.

My previous job was working for an Arts Council Bridge across the East of England and many of my relationships, understanding and awareness of the cultural landscape in this area is informed by that work. I have also worked in museums, art galleries, taught in colleges, as part of a library reading project and for a touring orchestra. I have worked with pre-schoolers to adults from all walks of life and try to ensure my work is concerned with making amazing arts and culture available to all whatever their background. This is an ideal fit for Gecko’s ambitions and approach. Sometimes this can be challenging as not everyone believes the arts have value for everybody. However, I have learnt that patience, passion and commitment are qualities that will gradually break down walls.

I can see so many amazing possibilities for us as a company and I am working at making them / some of them / all of them possible. I am really interested in what the core of our business is, in regards to making Gecko shows and touring them, but I am also really impassioned by our brilliant education and community work. I find an aspect of Gecko’s work that really chimes with me is our commitment to education, learning and community engagement. There is room for more, but that isn’t a bad thing as it means there’s opportunity.

 

“Everyone has welcomed me with
open arms, open minds and
a curiosity to see what I can bring to the table.”

 

Have there been any highlights so far during your time at Gecko?

A highlight was seeing The Wedding on tour in Watford. It was great to see the audience respond with such enthusiasm and energy. I have also really enjoyed working with our Board as well, a team of critically engaged, supportive and interesting people.

The Gecko family in its broadest sense is also a true highlight for this organisation. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms, open minds and a curiosity to see what I can bring to the table. The nature of my work is cumulative and some things I’m aiming to achieve will take time to become reality, not dissimilar to a Gecko show. Good things take time to mature.

What are your future plans for Gecko?

World domination? The Moon? The colonisation of distant galaxies?

Who inspires you?

I love questions like this! I have many people who have inspired me across my life from childhood heroes to platonic crushes on minds. I admire people I’ve worked with who are excellent at their work, all the way to pretend people who are able to make amazing things in the stories I enjoy.

Currently I quite enjoy being line-managed by Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool FC. For my sins I am a Liverpool fan, so I probably enjoy Klopp slightly more than non-football people or supporters of other teams. To me he is funny, enlightening and passionate. If I ever have a problem I can’t quite solve within work, I pick a Klopp interview to watch and often it helps me solve the problem.

We are in a good moment, and we are going in the right direction – it is about pushing the train, not jumping on a running train.

As an artist in your own right, is there a particular Gecko image that is striking to you, and why?

Not to be contrary, but I am going to answer this in regards to music. I love the musicality of the shows, from the wonderful scores Dave produces to the rhythmical elements within the performances. The shows are so beautifully aesthetic as well, and it’s hard to pick a single moment, but the forced perspective sequence in The Wedding is wonderful to behold. It really wowed me the first time I saw it. There is a magical, hyperreal quality to our shows that is visceral but also leads to towards surrealism. It’s beautiful, hypnotic and intoxicating. I love it.