Why My Failure Was My Biggest Success by Claire-Louise Meadows


It started so well, 2012.

After months of planning, the end of March was going to decide it all. The Liquid Art Fair, Liquid Gallery’s pet project, was due to launch on 31st March. At first I had worried whether artists would sign up to exhibit with us. Then I worried that people woouldn’t come to see the show.

With something like an art fair, as with any event planned in London, adrenaline pumps until the very last moment. There’s an internal sigh of relief when your first guest comes through the door, and the second

I needn’t have worried – they just kept coming. Over 100 people crossed the threshold of the tiny gallery in Battersea, clamouring to see a range of eclectic art from a range of international artists. For most of the evening I was in a mixed state: delight, and shock.  MP for Battersea Jane Ellison, who opened ths show said that Liquid were doing an amazing thing for the arts in London.

In my eyes, after months of hard work, we had finally arrived. I raised my glass to the future of the Liquid Art Fair programme, and the success of Liquid as a whole.

But then a very strange thing happened.

It started with an email from a close colleague I had come to regard as my business partner. This colleague had invested many hours into the business – plannning meetings, meeting colleagues, visiting venues and exhibitions with me.

Which was why i was surprised to receive an email one sunny morning in April in which this said person basically backed out of involvement in the Liquid Art Fair programme.

This was basically cutting me adrft, as I had relied on my colleague for technical support due to his extensive exhibition experience. He was a whizz with a hanging system, and now here he was, backing out of an arrangement which we had only discussed the week before.

Not only our own art fair programme: I had signed up and paid deposits on a number of third party art fairs. Now, without his assistance, I couldn’t meet my obligations. Naturally, I lost money, as none of these third-party agencies refunded my deposits.

I emailed my colleague to find out what had brought on this sudden decision, but to this day, I never heard another word from him.

This wasn’t the only thing that happened at this time. After a massive rush of interest in the Liquid Art Fair, applications died off. A combination of factors – the continually sinking economy, and the beginnings of an over-saturation of such events in the London art calendar.

For the June show, I had one applicant.

I had to think long and hard. It was now costing more to keep the business going, than we had ever made. After two years, I made the decision to close Liquid Gallery.

During this time, it became such that I had to drink long and hard as well. I began to empathise with those people you read about who commit suicide when their businesses end. You invest so much of your time, and so much of yourself – even though people tell you its not personal. I’m sorry – it is personal. Your business. It’s as close to you as a child.

From April until September 2012, I lost my sense of purpose. It was such that it hardly seemed worth getting up in the morning. What difference was i going to make anyway? All i had ever wanted to do was help rising artists, and now i had been kicked in the teeth. I couldn’t even write a poem anymore – nothing inspired me. Every day I tried to figure out where things had gone wrong.

The doctor told me she was worried about me. My husband was worried about me. I lost weight. I looked like everyone’s idea of the ‘before the makeover’ photograph.

I came off facebook – how could i face all those people who thought i was doing such great things. In the face of my failure, I hardly communicated with anyone in the outside world. What I thought I knew had disappeared – I felt so utterly alone.

I do believe I had a mini-breakdown during this time – I would sit on the sofa, staring into space for hours at a time. Other times, I would rave at my husband over the most banal of domestic errors. I was told, simply and without malice around the end of August, that I was becoming unbearable to live with.

I do also believe that this is where my recovery started. There’s nothing like being told that you have turned into a screaming harridan to force you to get your backside into gear.

Realising how lonely and isolated I had actually become, in September, and for the first time in months, I logged back into Facebook. What i found there was amazing. I realised that i had a whole suppport network there, that had been there all along. The messages i received were warm, and supportive – like i’d never been away.

Slowly, my sense of purpose came back. Over dinner one evening, a close friend suggested that I not waste anything that was published in Nyne Magazine because people had really liked it.

Out of that came After Nyne, which is currently reaching thousands of hits a month.

I decided to ressurect my publishing house, Tempest, and started to take on work that was not my own. Again, I started to get that hunger to help, and influence as many people as possible.

Now things are going even better than they were before. Things are really starting to happen for After Nyne and Tempest – we have published Micheal O Coinn’s debut poetry pamphlet, Five Words and Callie Carling’s ebookCallie’s Story has hit the bestseller list for Health books on Amazon.

I have many writing projects of my own scheduled for 2013/2014, including my third poetry collection Human Error. Once again, I see a way forward.

The failure of April is now September’s success story – there is a lesson in there for all of us.

Contact Claire at features@afternyne.com


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Posted in: Art, Spot Light

About the Author:

Since September 2012, I have been chief writer and editor for the current affairs and arts blog After Nyne, and now After Nyne Magazine (to launch February 2014).
I became a Huffington Post blogger in November 2012.
I am the author of two published poetry books Gold After, and Brittle Fires for Tempest Press's Virgo Rising imprint.
From September 2012 to February 2013, I was Founding Director of Tempest Public Relations, working with a range of clients including Irish American writer Micheal O Coinn, whose debut poetry pamphlet, Five Words, was published by my publishing house Tempest Press, and Callie Carling, author of breast cancer memoir Callie's Story, also published by Tempest Press.
I also acted as the official UK PR consultant to the US based Free Sara Kruzan campaign's Day of Action in London in 2012.
Before this, I was founding director of artist's agency Liquid Gallery - parent company of the Liquid Art Fair Battersea, and Nyne Magazine.
Outside of work, I have a keen film historian, with a particular interest in films from the 1930s to the 1960s. I am a voracious and omnivorous reader, and enjoy cooking, and country pubs with my husband and dog, Willow.

  • Ahh such great piece, Claire! And thank you for sharing that dark time in your life with us. So happy you crawled out of it!! You know, I can relate in way. I had to hit rock bottom pretty hard before I had enough courage to realize that there was a new adventure waiting for me. That’s the oddest thing though, about your so-called business partner. But okay, no need to give it too much thought now.

    Like you said “Once again, I see a way forward.” -- I think there is always a way out, you just have to be willing to see it.

    Here is to a much better and brighter future for you!! *raises glass* 🙂

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    • Thanks TJ -- your kind words are greatly appreciated. Best wishes, Claire

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