With Patreon, a great adventure beckons

Just as London recovered spectacularly from the plague and fire of the 1660s, so it will from Covid and the economic calamity of this past year. Cradle of English has a role in this.

This month sees Cradle of English launching a page on Patreon, a membership platform that describes its function as providing business tools for content creators to run a subscription service. It is like similar pages on social media that promise to streamline the journey to a bigger audience. It is like a crowd-funder site in that it generates revenue, albeit without the link to equity that is granted to investors.

But perhaps there is more to the Patreon offer.

Over 20 years of serving as an entrepreneurs’ mentor at London Business School, I have seen hundreds of business models and been directly involved in advising on, or adjudicating, dozens of them. Except for those businesses that do very well or very badly, there are few that become the sort of case studies that provide insight into the key issues of businesses’ evolution, with all their attendant thrills and spills.

There are three key reasons why we are inspired to chart our business progress “from quiet homes and first beginning, out to the undiscovered ends” of establishing a successful enterprise – while inviting a community of supporters to share the journey with us.

These reasons, in ascending order, start with a feeling we see in most Patreon supporters of content creators who seek to discover the alchemy which crafts enterprises out of passion. It’s the passion. I would not be interested in being much involved with any business for which its founders did not feel this excitement. And there will be no concern for anyone associated with Cradle of English – whether via Patreon or as investors or suppliers – about the passion driving our interest in the relationship of English language and history and how it found such powerful expression over five centuries on the printing presses of London.

Perhaps inevitably, our thoughts of how new technologies might help scale the business and extend its reach globally fuelled the second reason. New horizons for seeing the past with the assistance of Virtual and Artificial Reality, and Artificial Intelligence, offer tantalising glimpses of what it will mean to take Fleet Street online. This understanding dawned just as Covid lockdowns were starting to bite.

And then came Covid and its longer term affects, and the resulting busting of economies and the tanking of several industries that were especially bludgeoned in the context of Real Life activity where no “virtual” equivalent had yet emerged. Here the Flower of Opportunity blossomed its embrace. This was a journey to share with our supporters, engaging those most committed to the evolution of Cradle of English with the processes of discovering the most exciting place for our business in the world that will emerge from the tribulations of 2020.

To find out more, contact us on Patreon.

Theatre and the politics of empathy

Theatre enabled a shift from “I’m sorry for your loss” to “I feel your pain” and so seeded the ground for the development of Democracy

Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theatre in New York City, is one of a number of eminences to have pointed out the correlations in time and place between the establishing of the theatre and the development of democracy. He goes to Ancient Greece for his case in point: within a generation of the birth of the former around 550 BC, Periclean Athens had established the foundations of government by the people (demos).

There were other factors in place, too: Athens could teach a thing or two to Reformation Europe about the value of productive wealth over the privileges of birth, and the ascendancy of service to the state as being admirable above personal wealth however it had been accumulated. But the point made by Eustis and his allies in advocating for the impact of the theatre’s development on civilisation relates to a simple but profound shift in attention by audiences in the public arena.

Before “the shift” there were a variety of ways in which a performer could divert an audience and each of these ways or forms was predicated on an understanding of Me Here, You There. I could be delivering a speech, or telling a story, or performing a dance, or singing a song. In all these instances, the presumption was that I had something to display, or impart, and the audience could sit there with arms crossed, pre-existing likes and dislikes secure, and wait to be impressed.

“The shift” acknowledged those crossed arms as emblematic of a barrier between the performer and an audience directly invested in the granting or withholding of approval. The action was in a sense “in their face” – up close and personal. What changed was to invite a dispassion that comes from a little distance as performer became a plural, acting out before the audience a scene, a moment of passion, a flaring of conflict, an argument of pros and cons. It invited the audience to witness without commitment a drama played out by two or more people in a way that afforded them a chance to consider and balance points of view without risk of personal loss or compromise. Greater distance enabled a cooler disposition and the release of greater understanding, even empathy, for the drama in which the performers (and their passions) were embroiled.

Being able to see and acknowledge without pressure another person’s point of view is the start of all manner of advances in the history of humanity. We evolve from primates beating each other with sticks to inventing printing presses and conceiving the Scientific Method; from grunting brutes howling at the moon to Prospero’s gentle sigh that “we are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.””

While politicians preach national unity, too seldom do people “feel the love” just because someone says they should. The triumph of theatre, from Greece of the Ancients to Reformation London, was in conveying a sense of a shared journey and a credible belief that what can be imagined in hope can be realised in a better life.