Kate Bush made me feel like an underachiever.

October 7th, 2014


Before the Dawn endpaper © Kate Bush

A life time of waiting had taken me beyond hysterical days before – I was speechless and agog in the extreme by the time we were actually seated (three rows from the front – oh yes!) and Kate Bush actually appeared leading her line of singers onto the stage.

Before the Dawn unfolded to be a singularly epic, theatro-musical journey and, my eyes bulging to capacity, I absorbed every last drop of brilliance. The fluttering Tennyson; the little light, shining; the storm that soaked us on the inside; the silent moonlit birches; the painter painting on that lovely afternoon; the glorious flight of garden birds and the barefoot majesty of one truly creative genius of a woman.

Reading the programme afterwards I began to understand what it had taken for her to realise such a panoramic vision. Now, I know that comparison is an ugly old game, but in the face of such tireless harnessing of creativity and terrific determination of detailing I couldn’t help but feel like a total wastrel. I could see that I’d never really stuck at anything for very long or pursued a vision with anywhere near sufficient tenacity or stretched my creativity to achieve such rewarding limits. Honestly, I felt I’d probably always said ‘that’ll do’ way too early.

This was a depressing moment. I’d thought I would leave feeling brim full and inspired, not so embarrassingly deflated. The life’s work I thought I had been painting so carefully and increasingly skilfully began to smudge and diverge and look decidedly amateurish.

I found myself remembering a Creative Director I worked under for a while. This man had an eye and a talent which were extraordinary and award-winning. The pieces he created were achingly stylish, trendsetting and somehow peerlessly pure. His work, as he described it himself, was Art and we juniors were his minions, faithfully extrapolating his vision and hoping one day we would be where he was. Now there was someone in my field with a tenacious pursuit of vision and an ability to unleash creative excellence.

A few days later, still believing I was all-round pretty average, I thought about that Creative Director again and I remembered an overheard snippet of conversation between two of the Account Directors talking about his latest concept. The snippet went something like this: ‘Yeah, and now all we’ve got to do is sell it to the client.’ I recalled suddenly realising that his vision was actually held to be more important than whether the piece really worked for the client and I remembered, in that moment, having a very clear vision of my own. What I imagined was a design process that viewed everything through the eyes of the clients’ audience, one that was more of a collaboration between designer and client. That moment was fourteen years ago and I can say with honesty that it was the start of the thinking that would eventually lead me to launch my own business practising design in the way I had envisaged.

Fourteen years of working out the right kind of questions to ask in order to fully understand my clients’ audiences. Fourteen years of reverse engineering design from the end-user’s perspective backwards, picking things apart to understand what helps and what hinders success and how it does either. Fourteen years of honing my craft – that’s quite a long time to stick at something.

I looked at my choices afresh – perhaps I wasn’t so much of a pretender after all.

Yes, wait a moment, to have nurtured the belief that this collaborative design process would achieve better success than the cult of the all-powerful ‘eye’ and to have driven forward with that until it distinguished me from others, surely that’s a very real pursuit of a vision?

I thought about the boldness and dedication it takes to contain rounds of client feedback and road-testing and then to stretch creativity out again to find elegant solutions to the real-world problems our fledgling concepts meet. I thought about the thriving business I have built on these hard-worked foundations and the picture of my choices and achievements suddenly seemed brighter and more coherent.

My night with Kate had been deeply transformative after all. What I’d mistaken for rain ruining my painting had actually been a storm of Ninth Wave proportions, casting my crusty old doubting imposter into the depths and leaving me up, high on the roof with a renewed clarity and tenderness for my own unique production. A production I bring every day to my work. That’s every day – not just a mere 22 nights.


With thanks to Kate Bush for providing a life-time of magnificence.


  1. A truly inspiring read – Kate Bush is a great role model.

    Makes us appreciate how hard you work for us (Clissold Arms) and how complex it is to distil hundreds of minutely detailed emails into our fantastic website.

    by: Poppy on 7th October 2014 at 11:22 am


    • Poppy! I’m blushing! Thank you. It’s great to work with people who have so many ideas to keep things moving forward.

      by: shaell on 7th October 2014 at 4:31 pm


  2. Dear Alice, I truly enjoyed reading your blog. You are an inspiring artist and a very humble one with very many talents. The novelty and the bright ideas you bring are what we all seek and love.

    by: Hadi Zambarakji on 11th October 2014 at 12:09 pm


    • Hadi, thank you for your appreciative and encouraging comment. Having great clients is clearly the key to my success!

      by: shaell on 23rd October 2014 at 12:37 pm


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