#speeddating | Dating for art – Confessions of creative speed daters

Finding the right creative collaborator is a mix of persistence and luck, not so different from finding a romantic partner. We speak with creatives who have sought their artistic match via speed dating events.

Writer Rijn Collins attended a Literary Speed Dating event last year in June hoping to find an agent. Months later she ended up signing with Melanie Ostell, based on an interaction which lasted only three minutes.

Without attending the event, Collins said she never would have met Ostell, who represents Tim Rogers and Tara June Winch, among other writers.

As Collins tells it, writers were queued up outside the event until the doors were flung open and attendees were confronted with publishers and agents who occupied two long tables. Writers were given only a few minutes to make an impression before a bell rang and they moved on. A daunting experience for even the most courageous among us.


Unlike going on a romantic date, which might play out over several hours with seductive lighting and expensive cocktails, speed dating requires you to impress immediately!

‘It’s recommended you pitch for a minute, give the other person a minute to ask questions and use the third minute to talk about anything else,’ Collins told ArtsHub. 

‘It was very full on and my heart was hammering, but I really enjoyed the pressure,’ she said. ‘I think Melanie and I engaged well quickly and she said that my idea was ‘odd and beautiful,’.

Collins’ novel, a tale about a taxidermist with an OCD that compels her to eat books, impressed Ostell who asked to see a draft as quickly as possible along with Collins’ business card.

As she was performing at a literature festival directly after the event Collins had to rush off, but a chance meeting with Ostell outside hinted that a collaboration might be in the works.

‘I ran outside and Melanie was walking to get a coffee and she tapped me on the shoulder and said “December”. I said, “yes okay, I’ll do it”. And that really lit a fire under me and I’ve never worked so hard in my life,’ she said.

Creatives engage at CAN’s speed dating event. Image supplied.

What makes you creatively dateable?

Shaheen Hughes, CEO, of the Museum of Freedom and Tolerance, attended a speed dating event for artists and employees in August of this year run by the Community Arts Network, where filmmakers, musicians and artists could pitch their work to community, health and government organisations.

Founded to amplify the voices and stories of communities marginalised by race and religion, Hughes was looking for artists whose work fitted in with the ethos of the museum. Individuality was something she found to be a drawcard during the five minutes she met with participants.

‘Don’t be afraid to come as yourself: the more unique the better,’ she said. ‘I was impressed by how much skill, diversity and talent there was in the room. Everyone had something different to share.’

Although it’s early days and partnerships are still being established, Hughes said she formed connections with a street artist and an academic doing a PhD on video storytelling with an emphasis on marginalised groups.

‘I was searching for like-minded creatives who were looking for a more peaceful and cohesive society,’ she said.

Sharing passion

Depending on your discipline as an artist, finding collaborators can be a challenge, especially if you’re often stuck behind a desk and don’t make it out to networking events. 

In this way, speed dating ensures you have connections with multiple people. In the case of CAN’s event, the emphasis was on bringing artists and organisations together who ordinarily wouldn’t find each other.

‘Sometimes in Perth we feel very disconnected from the rest of the world but we have so much creativity and vision here, it’s very exciting,’ Hughes admits. ‘We need to focus on collaborating more with each other, across art forms and disciplines, because there’s so much potential to be unleashed.

‘I am of the view that people work better collectively and this was a really good opportunity to meet with like-minded people in a concentrated way.’

Collins agrees. 

‘Collaborating is a very good thing to do for your writing and also in general. I’ve collaborated with people on audio stories and music projects too, and I feel that sharing your passion and skill with someone else to make it sharper is definitely a smart idea.’

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