‘Cultivating My Lady Garden’

I’ve found the Garden of Eden, and it’s located at The Brix in St Matthews Church, Brixton.

All are unashamedly joyously naked here; free to learn and stumble, driven to create and grow.  Because as yet, no one has tasted the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil that grows outside its walls.

I first discovered the School of Communications Arts five years ago. I visited as an ad-hoc mentor, then gave masterclasses and built my creative team of SCA alumni.  My current iteration is as con- sultant Creative Director as part of the faculty and I’m getting to flex my green fingers.

Marc Lewis ‘Head Gardener’ has a gift for landscaping – setting out a plan for the seasons. Tweaked week by week, adaptable to weather patterns, pestilence and bounty, it is fertile ground for both indigenous and exotic stock.  He knows instinctively the balance needed for diverse flora and fauna to flourish; laying the foun- dation – part grit, part play – required for the life-long pursuit of creative- and self-mastery.

He is canny. For all sorts of horticulturists, sunbathers and ‘green fingers’ are invited to visit the garden. Here they find saplings and hybrid breeds to take back with them once Agency placements start.  Those who visit to tend the garden get to become students again. Baggage is discarded at the gate and they come bearing seeds, bulging compost sacks and perhaps a pair of glinting seca- teurs to prune and shape.

The garden learns how to fight for their creative survival, to filter feedback and start again.  And watch, listen… gently the bright green shoots poke through; fresh leaves quietly unfurl and a new season bursts forth.

And the fruit? The fruit is plentiful.

The fruit is a new generation of creative thinkers and doers – a sprawling family that over the past seven years has infiltrated advertising, media and beyond, showing us fresh ways to grow.

In the SCA we have a living blueprint for how to cultivate creative team culture; bonded yet individ- ual, open and protected.  It is a place where curious minds collide through the generations – something rare these days. A place where one day grass blades tickle between toes, and the next, a coconut lands on your head.

My Garden of Eden metaphor, if somewhat clichéd, is not an idle one.

To quote from Adam Gop- nik’s insightful analysis of Voltaire’s Candide in the New Yorker: ’The force of Voltaire’s last great injunction, “We must cultivate our garden,” is that our responsibility is local, and concentrated on immediate action.’

The School of Communications Arts is a place to be nurtured by our industry. It is a privilege in- deed to be a part of cultivating this garden and in so doing… cultivate my own.

Ann Wixley is ECD of Wavemaker and visiting mentor at SCA


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